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Almost total tack of accountability of private hospitals is a glaring scandal

13747637_sLast month’s report by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest on patient safety risks in private hospitals is a real eye-opener. Apparently more than 800 people have died ‘unexpectedly’ in private hospitals in the last 4 years, and a total of 921 serious injuries were recorded. Even this may be a significant under-estimation since private hospitals are still not required to make data on hospital deaths and safety incidents publicly available. The majority of private hospitals have no intensive care beds. Some have no dedicated resuscitation teams, and surgeons and anaesthetists usually work in isolation. There is often very little experienced cover at night, and typically there is one very junior doctor covering an entire hospital. There are also gaps in after-care if things go wrong.

The NHS is increasingly being used as a support service for the private hospital sector. More than a quarter of the sector’s income now comes from treating NHS-funded patients, and the NHS regularly serves as a ‘safety net’. Thousands of people are regularly transferred to the NHS after treatment in private hospitals, with more than 2,600 emergency NHS admissions from the private sector in 2012-3. Outrageously the NHS is not reimbursed for this, even if the emergency care follows a failure by a private hospital.

So who is responsible for regulating private healthcare in England? This is supposed to be the responsibility of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), but the latter can only make judgements on the data available. Again, scandalously, records of clinical negligence claims against private providers are not publicly available as they are in the NHS. And the new Care Act somehow exempts private providers from the new criminal offence of providing false or misleading information to the regulators (what a surprise!). As well as picking up the tab for complications caused by private healthcare, the NHS can also be left with the legal bill for negligence claims. It is almost unbelievable that, if negligence is proven, it is the NHS as the commissioner of the care, rather than the private provider of the surgery, who has to foot the bill.

These unfair and prejudiced rules need to be drastically changed so that private hospitals are stringently held to account for their own feelings, both in terms of their financial responsibilities and legal liabilities, including prosecution for the most serious offences. More generally, patients need to be told in advance about the extra risks of having surgery in a private hospital in an emergency. These risks need to be measures, published and, if significant, included on the consent forms.

Image copyright: 72soul / 123RF Stock Photo

One Comment

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    hide it away the tory way but who profits from these said companys who art in power taking monies from these if this isnt unlawfull whot is then two faced and crooked government who take take take from the private sector

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