Our recent LCA survey heard its consultants…and the outlook for private practice was not good.
The overwhelming feeling from the feedback received was that all practice had been suspended instantly with no support from the sector as overheads loomed and patients were denied treatment. Some consultants had been able to attend to some patients via virtual consultations over video conferencing platforms, however even this had and continues to have its challenges as highlighted by the Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO) Vice Chairman, Mr Ian McDermott, in a recent feature in the Independent Practitioner Today, which you may read here.
Now that the UK is deemed to be in its ‘de-escalation phase’ consultants are being encouraged to return to work but with all the safety procedures and limited access to consulting rooms, this is likely to be at 50% capacity and mostly directed to virtual settings. This format cannot hope to deliver the high quality of care expected from private healthcare to patients. Moreover, this is financially unviable particularly as insurers are pressuring consultants to accept a 50% cut to reimbursement fees for these consultations (read here). Consultants will need to work longer hours, above their normal capacity (pre-coronavirus), and at higher rates if they ever hope to recover and return to normal practice – this is the reality expressed by many of our survey participants. Since this is an unlikely possibility, many of our participants said that they will probably retire from private practice altogether as there is no hope of recovery.
This threat to the private practice is a detriment to the industry; to hospital providers who will limited access to consultants, and to insurers who will lose its revenue from its corporate and personal private healthcare policies.
It is a detriment to the NHS whom the private sector supports in delivering patient care, with its mounting waiting lists and financially through consultants’ tax contributions.
Most importantly, it is a detriment to all the patients who will no longer have this alternative access to healthcare.
It is essential that the private sector comes together to restart private practice. Our Chairman, Dr Mark Vanderpump and Company Secretary, Dr Rosemary Hittinger recently spoke with the IPT about how the industry may collaborate to form a strategy for the future survival of the private sector: #ProjectRestartPrivatePractice
The major issues that the sector faces are:
- Loss of public confidence in accessing healthcare;
- Difficulties for insurers in delivering the services their subscribers pay for;
- Finding sufficient fee-capped consultants who will wish to continue to work privately; and
- Providers who are reintroducing access to their hospitals with inconsistent protocols for both in-patients and outpatient clinics. These vary significantly even between sites within the same provider.
Any hope of survival is unlikely without an underlying support strategy from all components of the sector – insurers, providers and the consultants. You may read more on this here
We would like to thank all the key workers and healthcare staff for your incredible strength and work during this pandemic. Take care and stay safe.