Consultants who undertake private practice have a legal duty to comply with competition legislation and that includes engaging with PHIN, the Private Healthcare Information Network. Medical Protection outlines your key responsibilities when doing so, including how PHIN can help.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is the competition regulator in the United Kingdom. It is a non-ministerial government department in the UK, responsible for strengthening business competition and preventing and reducing anti-competitive activities.
In 2014 the CMA published its findings following an investigation into the private healthcare market, alongside a series of legal remedies which sit with different groups across the sector. This includes hospitals offering private healthcare services, consultants, and private medical insurers (PMIs).
The result was a legal Order by the CMA which places responsibility on healthcare providers to supply the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) with information that it can publish to improve transparency and support patient choice. The PHIN website contains information about activity, risk and patient feedback for all hospitals that treat private patients, and at individual consultant level. The information PHIN is required to publish is set out in the CMA Order.
Under the Order there are specific legal requirements on consultants – namely to submit the typical fees they charge patients for initial and follow-up consultations, and common procedures undertaken. Where consultants offer services as part of a wider ‘package price’ with the hospital, this must be confirmed to PHIN also.
What else are consultants encouraged to do?
As well as information about a consultant’s fees, PHIN is also required to publish information about individual consultant’s practice. At this stage, PHIN publishes the following:
The number of procedures they perform, and where (within a recent 12-month period)
The anticipated length of stay for a procedure performed by this consultant
Patient feedback scores, where these are collected by their hospitals
Registration with the National Joint Registry (in future this will be extended to include
other registries and audits)
This information is supplied to PHIN by all hospitals that treat private patients – including NHS hospitals with private patient units. This means that consultants do not have to collate and submit this information to PHIN.
However, acknowledging that there is potential for data errors, PHIN currently offers to work with consultants to review and verify the information that is submitted about their practice before it is published online. This is a really important task for ensuring that PHIN and the hospitals can publish information in line with the CMA Order, and support greater transparency for patients considering private healthcare.
Consultants are also encouraged to fill in their PHIN profiles with photos and information about their private practice.
What is the benefit to consultants?
Aside from the fact this is a legal requirement, there are benefits for consultants and patients. Consultants can view both privately submitted and NHS activity data in their practice report.
Many consultants choose to use this complete view of their practice for revalidation and appraisals. Several consultants are including their patient satisfaction data (private practice only) in their appraisal and revalidation folders as data that has been independently analysed by PHIN – a trusted third-party organisation.
A full profile on PHIN’s website allows consultants to provide more information to patients about their training, practice, and sub-specialty interests. Consultants with complete profiles tend to receive more visitors on the PHIN profiles than others, which increases the opportunity to bring in new patients.
PHIN has been contacting consultants to let them know about the CMA Order since 2016. However, appreciating the demands on consultants during the COVID-19 pandemic both PHIN and the CMA made encouraging compliance with the Order a lower priority.
However, now we are moving to a stage where we are living with COVID-19, the CMA has stated that it will increase its attention on ensuring full compliance with the Order, including taking legal action for non-compliance where appropriate.
Sarah Cardell, Interim Chief Executive at the Competition and Markets Authority, said: “We now expect to see PHIN and its members apply a relentless focus on achieving the plan and improving the quality of data that is provided. We will monitor progress closely and stand ready to take enforcement action if hospitals or consultants fail to meet the standards and timescales set out.”
How can consultants get involved?
All consultants that are covered by the CMA Order are being contacted directly by PHIN, using the email address which is registered with the GMC. This will invite them to sign in to PHIN’s secure online portal. Here they will be able to:
Submit and approve their fee information
Review the practice data supplied by the hospitals where they treat private patients
Complete their PHIN profile with information about their training, practice and clinical
PHIN appreciates the demands on consultants’ time and has made the process as straightforward as possible.
If you have any question, visit PHIN’s portal or contact a member of their consultant relationship team at [email protected].