New competition authority says UK private healthcare will see a crackdown

Harriet Green
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The newly-formed Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced it’s cracking down on private healthcare benefits and incentive schemes.

It’s also forcing the sale of some hospitals, after a two-year investigation by its predecessor, the Competition Commission.

The watchdog says it’s shelving demands for BMI Healthcare, Britain’s biggest private healthcare provider, to sell off several hospitals. BMI says it’s welcomed the “sensible, fair and measured conclusion”.

It is, however, insisting that US company HCA International sell two of its central London hospitals.

The CMA will also be reviewing future arrangements where private hospital operators team up with NHS private patient units, banning any that might lessen competition.

Chairman of the Private Healthcare Inquiry Group, Roger Witcomb, said:

Greater information on the performance of hospital operators and of consultants as well as consultants’ fees will allow patients to make far better informed choices about what they are paying for, when deciding which hospital and consultant to choose for their treatment.

Equally we are going to restrict incentive schemes that encourage patient referrals to particular private hospitals – again so that the advice given by consultants is driven solely by the merits of individual facilities.