Patients undergoing operations in private hospitals may be put at risk from inadequate equipment, lack of intensive care beds, unsafe staffing arrangements, and poor medical record-keeping according to a new report.
Research from think tank The Centre for Health and the Public Interest revealed that over 800 people have died unexpectedly in private hospitals in England during the last four years.
Private hospitals are not required to make data on hospital deaths publicly available - unlike their NHS counterparts - making it difficult for the public to understand how safe private hospitals are, the think tank said.
The CHPI report for the first time brings together what is known about patient safety in private hospitals in England:
- Between October 2010 and April 2014 802 patients died unexpectedly in private hospitals, and there were 921 serious injuries.
- The majority of private hospitals have no intensive care beds, some have no dedicated resuscitation teams, and surgeons and anaesthetists usually work in isolation - without assistant surgeons and anaesthetists in training present.
- Although the private hospital sector now gets over a quarter of its income from treating NHS-funded patients, there is significantly less information available to patients about the performance of private hospitals than about the NHS.
- It is not possible to establish whether all private hospitals providing NHS care are fulfilling their legal obligation to publish Quality Accounts letting the public know how they are performing.
Report co-author Professor Colin Leys said:"The public and regulators have access to more information than ever before about how NHS services are performing but this report shows that the same cannot be said for private hospitals.
"The Government has recognised the crucial role of transparency in making hospitals safer but reporting requirements should apply wherever patients are treated. With the taxpayer now providing over a billion pounds a year to private hospitals, this is too important to be left to the industry to address."
The report concluded that private providers should be subject to the same requirements as the NHS to report patient safety incidents, and to report on their performance.Earlier this year the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ruled that private healthcare providers needed to provide greater transparency to customers about the quality of care given.
It is not clear if this will include data on points raised by the CHPI report.