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Private healthcare market probe

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Office of Fair Trading has announced plans to investigate the £5.5bn private healthcare market to examine whether it is fully competitive.

The OFT study, set to begin in spring next year, will examine the nature of competition in the market, concentrating its investigation on four key areas:

- The concentration amongst private providers and whether this limits the extent of competition

- The existence of any barriers preventing private providers from entering or expanding in the market

- Restrictions on the ability of consultants to practice

- How consumers access and assess information and exercise choice

Sonya Branch, OFT senior director of services and public markets, said: ‘We are keen to establish whether patients and buyers of private healthcare services, including the NHS, are getting the full benefit of choice and competition.

‘As this is a complex area, we want to engage with providers, patients and government first to ensure that we identify and focus on the correct issues prior to launching the market study in 2011.'

Adrian Fawcett, chief executive of General Healthcare Group, parent company of independent provider BMI Healthcare, batted back the suggestion that the private healthcare market is not competitive.

'The sector offers quality, cost efficiency and rapid availability of treatment. That is the reason why individual patients, private medical insurers and NHS GPs and trusts choose private treatment.'


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