Private medical insurance patients should have access to their consultant's NHS performance data and how private treatment prices compare with the NHS, an academic has argued.
Speaking at the launch of Bupa's Healthcare Reform paper, Professor Alan Maynard, professor of health economics at the University of York said such changes would build on the Competition and Market Authority's (CMA) remedies to improve transparency, competition and high prices in the private hospital sector.
Maynard said: "The private sector has been very successful in marshalling the market to its own ends rather than the consumer's and the same applies to private insurance. If you look at the structural performance of any healthcare system, whether private or public, internationally they're very similar in the sense that providers are very powerful and the payers are very weak."
He added: "The immediate issue is how do prices in the private provider market in the UK compare with our national tariffs on the NHS? If I look at my local market I can private providers like Nuffield Health and Ramsay apparently doing good business at NHS tariffs for NHS patients.
"I think there needs to be much more comparison of prices, which I think Bupa are talking about. But also the question is, what is a ‘reasonable' tariff? Should it be benchmarked with the crude prices that exist in the NHS?"
Maynard said to improve quality, consumers should have access to clinician's track record of mortality and improving patients' quality of life.
The CMA had ruled that private hospitals and consultants should provide data on performances and fees.
However Maynard said he was anxious as consumers would not get an overall view of consultants' track records.
He said: "My anxiety is that, I'd like to have a comprehensive view of my consultant's performance, not just their private work, which is important, but also linked to the public data. I have a strong view that consultants should only pass General Medical Council (GMC) validation tests if you have private and public integrated data and consequences of that data.
"That consultant may have a small volume of patients in private hospitals but they may have a bigger volume in the NHS hospital. What's their overall performance level, not just what they're doing in the private sector."
Maynard concluded: "As a consumer of private insurance, I would like much greater transparency which it comes to prices and the question for the industry, is whether you have a much more regulated environment of prices? With regard to quality, should I be worried as a private patient if mortality rates were good in the private sector but not in the public sector, shouldn't I be able to see what that consultant does across the board?"
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