FIPO supports clarity on consultant fees

The publication of fee data for private healthcare is a significant step in achieving better information for self-pay patients.

The Private Healthcare Information Network [PHIN] (click here) was appointed by the Competition and Markets Authority [CMA] (click here) to support patients in deciding which consultants to choose, on the basis of their fees.

FIPO fully supports fee transparency regarding consultations and treatment, and is keen to ensure that any information provided to patients is robust and accurate.  FIPO fully agrees with PHIN’s warning that “medical fees are just one part of the total price of private healthcare”.

Whilst fee disclosure for self-pay patients is a relatively straight forward business, for the 75% of patients with private medical insurance this is not the case. The vast majority of consultants no longer set their own fees as these are dictated by the insurers making any  competition by price redundant. Many more senior and experienced consultants have either had their recognition removed by the insurers or are not recommended at the point of pre-authorisation as they may be more expensive. This inhibits patient choice and interferes with the CMA’s aim of encouraging greater competition.

A patient survey found that quality of care is of greater importance to those self-pay patients who are able to choose, than its cost. The survey confirmed that patients are less interested in fee rates and more interested in a consultant’s level of expertise and experience.

FIPO has always been concerned that a strong personal relationship between doctor and patient should remain sacrosanct.  Medical ethics and professionalism must not be overshadowed by an overwhelming emphasis on cost, especially when real freedom of choice may be constrained, for example by conditions imposed by insurers.

Patients are not consumers in the classic business sense. The complexities of healthcare extend beyond cost alone, and FIPO believes that patients should fully understand the implications of their choice and its possible impact on achieving the best possible personal outcome.