Is Private Healthcare safe?

As you will see below, we have asked this before and made cogent pleas for action. Now we are responding to the Royal College of Surgeons as reported on 10 April:

Greater transparency about the safety of private hospitals is needed urgently

The Private Patients’ Forum (PPF) broadly welcomes the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS)  joining its call for greater transparency about the safety of  Private hospitals, but asks, is this enough to protect patients?

The RCS demand follows the jailing of surgeon Ian Paterson who performed needless breast operations on scores of NHS and private patients leaving many in pain and distress. Paterson is now serving a 20 year prison sentence.

The Royal College of Surgeons says private hospitals should be required to collect and publish their safety records in the same way as the NHS to prevent similar scandals happening in the future and suggests that stricter clinical governance procedures be introduced in the private sector.  The Care Quality Commission also supports the Royal College demands.

Data is being collected

But while broadly welcoming this new intervention, it is a fact that much of this key data is already being collected by PHIN, the Private Healthcare Information Network and will be published on its website along with a great deal of other information, including the cost of operations in private hospitals and clinics. This will undoubtedly help would-be patients to make better choices.

This will also go a long way in bringing greater transparency of quality and safety of private healthcare services in line with the NHS, but this alone will not prevent a future case similar to Ian Paterson.

It is not just data – professionals need to step up

Paterson was allowed to continue operating long after patients began to raise their concerns about his work.  The PPF wants to see an early warning system put in place so that patient concerns and those of other doctors, (perhaps even a confidential whistle blowing system for medical professionals ) regarding the work of a particular surgeon, can be shared with all providers and regulators at the earliest opportunity. This would mean a more effective and urgent use of quality, safety and complaints information than is currently the case and would require a whole system approach.

Collating outcomes in both NHS and private practice is essential

The PPF wants to see data on private hospital safety integrated within national reporting systems. We want one common system for all hospitals NHS and private, and so we welcome the recent initiative launched by NHS Digital and PHIN – the ADAPt Programme – which sets out the first stages to do just that.

Introducing new regulations and collecting data is one thing, but the PPF wants see that data presented publicly in a simple and clear way in order to inform and protect all patients.


In December last year (2018) we asked that question, Is Private Healthcare safe?

Our answer was:

Yes – but more needs to be done to ensure consistency nationwide!”   (lower down this page)

which we updates with the following:

The Private Patients’ Forum demands full compliance on patient safety and clinical governance in all private hospitals

The Private Patients’ Forum (PPF) is calling on the owners and managers of all private hospitals and clinics to protect patients by ensuring the highest standards of clinical governance and safety in their facilities.

The latest Care Quality Commission report on the sector follows the jailing of the disgraced former surgeon, Ian Paterson.  The report shows that almost a third of the 206 private hospitals inspected ‘required improvement’.

Safety was the biggest concern of the CQC. The regulator said in its press release:  “Safety was where CQC had the greatest concerns – 41% of hospitals were rated as ‘requires improvement’ and 1% as ‘inadequate’ in this area. Also, 30% of hospitals were rated as ‘requires improvement’ and 3% as ‘inadequate’ for how well-led they were.”

Ted Baker, the Chief Inspector for Hospitals at the CQC said, Too often, safety was viewed as the responsibility of individual clinicians, rather than a corporate responsibility supported by formal governance processes. “

The PPF notes that around half of those hospitals designated by the CQC as ‘requires improvement’ have now been found by the regulator to have raised their standards. However, the PPF still considers this to be unacceptable for patients and demands that providers take immediate steps to bring standards up to those practised in the majority of independent hospitals across the country

A spokesperson for the PPF said, “Clinical governance regulation has been in place across the health sector for years now and every patient has the right to expect the highest standards of safety and care.  Nothing less is acceptable.”

“The PPF calls on all hospital owners and managers to ensure sufficient expertise is always available to guarantee the highest standards of clinical governance and safety of patients.  We also call on doctors and other health professionals to demand action immediately if they see standards slipping.

“We encourage any patient or patient’s relative, to report concerns to their consultant and the hospital management. If an issue is not resolved then patients should contact the CQC and tell the PPF about their experiences too.

“Patients will soon benefit from the detailed data on treatment success rates being collected and published by PHIN (the Private Healthcare Information Network.) This will improve transparency and expose data showing the actual performance of both hospitals and doctors. In turn, it will enable patients to make better choices and encourage every provider to offer the best quality of care and service.”

To see the full CQC report please visit:

You can search the CQC site for individual hospital reports which will help you make your choice of hospital.



Here is what PPF was calling for four months ago in answer to the question ‘Is Private Healthcare safe?”:

 Yes – but more needs to be done to ensure consistency nationwide!

Above all else, the well-being and safety of patients is the most important issue for the Private Patients’ Forum (PPF).

It’s why we came together some years ago to represent the interests of patients and potential patients. We wanted to help people choose the best options for themselves and their family; to get the best out of private healthcare and we wanted to help patients resolve matters, if something did go wrong.

After all, every patient has the right to expect that, wherever they are treated, in a private hospital or a private patient unit in an NHS hospital, they should receive the best possible and safe care.

The safety of the private sector and the NHS is frequently and properly examined by the media, especially so, when on a rare occasion, a doctor or hospital faces legal action because a patient or patients have been harmed.

Accidents and especially cases where patients are harmed deliberately or through carelessness, are extremely rare and becoming more so but human frailty means there is no such thing as ‘never again’!

Let us make it completely plain up front: The PPF utterly condemns any doctor, healthcare professional, or hospital manager who deliberately causes harm to a patient or those who harm a patient by accident and then try to cover up or refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.

Read more about this by clicking here




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