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Bupa Welcomes Competition Commission Putting Patients First

The Competition Commission’s provisional findings into the private healthcare market, published today, are good news for patients, says Bupa. The report says patients have been bearing the cost of a lack of competition among private hospitals, especially in London, and has set out a series of possible actions to address the market failures.

Dr Damien Marmion, managing director, Bupa Health Funding said: “This is good news for patients and private healthcare. It could be the treatment required to drive better value, better quality and greater transparency for customers. “Millions of people with health insurance rightly expect high-quality healthcare for an affordable price. By tackling the lack of competition that has damaged the sector for too long, the Commission has understood the need for strong action and has put patients first. “Bupa will continue to work with the Commission to support them in driving through these proposals for the benefit of customers.”

The Competition Commission (CC) identifies over 100 hospitals facing little local competition, the main five hospital groups owning the vast majority of these. Three of the groups are highlighted as creating between £173million and £193million of extra costs for patients each year. The CC is now looking at requiring groups to sell some hospitals and is proposing to change the way hospitals negotiate with insurers so that patients get a better deal.

The CC criticises schemes where hospital groups offer incentives, such as fee for referral, free secretarial support and free consulting rooms, for consultants to treat patients at their hospitals. It says that the schemes which encourage consultants to ‘choose facilities on grounds other than price and quality’ should be stopped, as they could cause excessive tests or consultations. The CC also calls for better information for patients on the prices charged by private hospitals and consultants, and the quality of their service. Bupa is committed to playing its part in communicating this information to its customers. The CC reports that no insurer has enough ‘buyer power’ to fully offset the market power of major hospital groups. But, by working to keep premiums down and promote competition on price and quality, insurers like Bupa are doing ‘exactly what their customers would expect’.

Dr Marmion added: “This is the most important potential reform to the UK’s private healthcare market in decades. The sector has been given a golden opportunity to halt the decline and to grow the market for the benefit of consumers – everyone must now work together to ensure that this chance is not wasted.” “We have long been campaigning for a better deal for customers. The Competition Commission has clearly recognised that structural changes are needed in the market to make this happen. “We hope that the Commission will take forward its bold proposals to drive better quality and value for money. By doing so they can help many more people afford private healthcare and the benefits it can bring.”

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