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Patients should be aware of risks of private hospitals, says think-tank

Patients should be made aware of the ‘different’ risks of having surgery in small private hospitals compared to larger NHS ones, a think tank has warned.

There were over 800 unexpected deaths and 900 serious injuries across England’s 465 private hospitals in the last four years, according to a report by the Centre for Health and Public Interest (CHPI) which studied available statistics, FOI responses and CQC inspection reports.

However the reporting requirements for patient safety incidents were far less stringent than for NHS hospitals, including on mortality data, it said.

According to the report, private hospitals often lack intensive-care facilities, equipment and medical support for when complications arise during surgery. The authors also warned that poor keeping of medical records was a recurring theme in CQC reports on private hospitals, including consultants often keeping records off-site.

The CHPI has recommended that private hospitals become subject to new requirements, including full reporting of patient safety incidents and releasing information under the Freedom of Information Act ‘in respect of anything related to the treatment of NHS patients’.

The report said: ‘Private providers should be subject to exactly the same requirements to report patient safety incidents (including mortality data) as NHS trusts and foundation trusts. All of the information should be published in the same way as it is for NHS providers and this should be a requirement  of registration with the CQC.’  

It added: ‘It is important that patients are made aware of the different risk factors between being treated in a small private hospital and a much larger NHS hospital.’

According to CHPI, private hospitals rely on NHS patients for around 28% of their income, but ‘rely heavily’ on NHS hospitals to treat patients when complications arise, including some 6,000 referrals from private hospitals to NHS providers each year.

It comes as Department of Health spend on treatment of NHS patients by private providers topped £10bn for the first time last year.