Stricter regulation has followed scandals

However, for over ten years now there has been an ever increasing momentum towards the stricter regulation of the medical professions and all hospitals and clinics, whether private or NHS. Cases such as the Stafford NHS scandal have been the catalysts for the tightening of regulation at all levels and in all hospitals in the UK.

The (too soft) GMC had to change

The doctors’ regulator, the General Medical Council, has been strengthened considerably, its systems changed and it is now far more effective. The same is true for regulators of other healthcare professionals.

The Care Quality Commission got tough and then tougher

The Care Quality Commission has, for some years now, had the same increased regulatory powers for the NHS as it does for the private sector and its unannounced inspections are robust and reporting is extremely thorough.

It’s difficult and disruptive for hospitals, doctors and nurses to have a snap inspection but it is keeping everyone on their toes and aware that standards have to be kept high 24×7 – no ifs and no buts!

Strict Clinical Governance

The regulations governing clinical governance – ensuring treatments are appropriate and safe and doctors’ skills and success rates are of the highest order – are now universal too. Doctors’ continued training and regular re-validation are all tightly regulated.

Every private Doctor must be insured.

Every doctor must have professional indemnity insurance before he or she can practice in a private hospital. If a doctor forgets to renew their policies or tries to hide the mistake, he or she will be disciplined by the GMC and may well be struck off the medical register. (Some insurers are under scrutiny, as we write this, to ensure that all patients are fully covered for mistakes (resulting in harm) that doctors may make. The PPF wants this matter resolved asap!)

We should note that, apart from external regulation, in the private sector, healthcare professionals have the same mission to improve the human condition; to prevent suffering and to help patients get well again as those working in the NHS.

Better Information thanks to the Private Health Information Network (PHIN)

In addition, for the future, all patients, potential patients and relatives will be able to see the success rates of hospitals and doctors published on the Government mandated Private Health Information Network (PHIN) website. (Some information is available now and more is being added as it comes in.)

So the PPF believes that much has been done over the past ten years or so to hugely increase regulation, to bring the private sector in line with the NHS and to begin to provide more information to enable patients to exercise choice; choice of doctor and choice of hospital.

But is this enough? The PPF says NO IT IS NOT!

We believe that, while there has been very considerable general improvement, there are still some hospitals and clinics where we suggest there may not be enough resource to ensure the highest standards of clinical governance. By contrast, some larger private hospitals carrying out complex treatments in London, for example, have met or exceeded the clinical governance standards in the NHS for many years. But that plainly is not the case everywhere and it may be a problem in other parts of the UK heath sector.

The PPF believes there should be greater and more consistent effort by all hospital operators, also by doctors and other health professionals, together with regulators, to ensure safety and the highest standards of care.

Safety and care quality is a constant requirement and the private sector needs to redouble its efforts to achieve and maintain the universally high standards that every patient deserves.

We will not be satisfied until this is achieved.

NB: There will be more discussion on this website about how to make the best choice for private healthcare, about the latest developments in regulation and even how to complain, in the near future.

In the meantime, we want to hear of your experiences of the private healthcare sector – both good and bad.

Please write to us at: contactus@privatepatientsforum.org

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