The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has revealed that that two fifths of private hospitals in England are failing to meet expected safely standards.
The regulator published its results after completing its first ever comprehensive inspection programme of independent non-specialist acute hospitals. Its findings can be found on its website.
The inspection programme, which was introduced in 2015, means that, for the first time ever, the CQC has a clear understanding of the quality of care that patients are receiving.
The programme also saw the introduction of performance ratings ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’ to help patients make informed choices about their healthcare.
In total, the CQC inspected and also rated, 206 independent hospitals in England that treat both private patients and receive NHS funding for patients to be seen privately.
While most independent acute hospitals provide good quality care (62% were rated ‘good’), the inspections have raised concerns over the safety and leadership of some services. In fact, 30% have been rated as ‘requires improvement’, with a number of areas highlighted as in need of substantial improvements.
One of the key findings was the wide variation in the quality and effectiveness of governance. The report revealed that a number of independent providers did not have a formalised governance process or agreement in place.
The lack of formal governance agreements means that hospitals were not effectively monitoring the work of consultants who operate under ‘practising privileges’, where the hospital provides the facilities and nursing staff, but the consultant clinicians have the right to practice rather than being employees.
This means that proper checks and monitoring of senior doctors to ensure they were undertaking treatments they were qualified to do in a safe way was not taking place. The report also found that, in such cases, the hospitals were reluctant to challenge consultants.
The findings highlighted examples of poor and inconsistent monitoring of risks, and a lack of systems and processes to put into place a ‘robust culture of learning from risks’, which is key to improving practice and making it safer for patients going forward.
On a more positive note, the report found that patients have received prompt access to treatment and procedures and a good continuity of care.
Alison Appelboam Meadows, a partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, who has experience in dealing with claims against private providers, said: “The CQCs report highlights a number of key issues which clearly need to be addressed. In practice, it is not uncommon to deal with cases against private providers when there are no governance agreements in place, which becomes particularly difficult when determining liability when a patient is injured after receiving negligent care. In addition, the lack of effective processes for recording and monitoring risks is concerning.”