Posted on Feb 07, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa
As the UK braces itself for the largest shake-up of the National Health Service (NHS) since its inception in 1948, the UK's private healthcare sector is poised to benefit from the changes proposed in the provision of medical services which arise from the reforms.
Under the Health and Social Care bill
set out by David Cameron's Coalition Government, the long established British healthcare system
is set for major changes aimed at improving the efficiency of the NHS and ultimately to achieve substantial savings in the multi-billion cost of services under current arrangements. As reforms take effect across the UK public healthcare sector, the privately run healthcare sector is gearing itself to respond to opportunities likely to emerge from these changes.
The UK private healthcare sector has evolved extensively over the last decade and is currently valued at £5.5 billion (US$ 8.6 billion) per year, with private healthcare providers in the UK having already established links with the NHS for patient referrals and the outsourcing of medical procedures.
Last year an alliance was formed between a group of private healthcare providers - the General Healthcare Group, Spire Healthcare, HCA International, Nuffield Health and Ramsay Healthcare UK - designed to work in unison with the NHS and promote the key benefits offered by the private healthcare sector in the provision of healthcare in the UK; the alliance has called itself H5.
H5's membership consists of approximately 165 hospitals across the UK and the collective partnership accounts for roughly 80 percent of the private hospitals and 85 percent of total private hospital beds in the nation. H5 members play an active role in the provision of healthcare services in the UK and are aiming to become a more important contributor in the overall supply of medical services as the healthcare reforms are introduced over the next two to three years.
The UK's private medical insurance (PMI) industry is also set to expand as the controversial reforms are introduced and expected budgetary cuts emerge within the NHS. PMI has predominately been a fringe benefit supplied by companies to employees or as safety policy for Britons prepared to fund private healthcare in order to avoid delays in the provision of medical treatment under the NHS. Insurers such as CS Insurance, Westfield, the WPA Group and Aviva Health have established firm links with the network of privately run hospitals.
At the same time as the UK is set for changes to the NHS, the national independent body - the Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
- has announced that it will be carrying out an investigation into competition within the private medical insurance industry reviewing network agreements and the funding of consultant fees specifically.
In 2010, there were 7,238,000 people in the UK holding private medical insurance policies, representing 11.7 percent of the UK population, according to a recent Laing and Buisson report. Although the UK's PMI sector suffered adversely following the collapse of global financial markets in 2007-2008, the reforms in the UK's NHS is set to ignite demand for individual and family private medical coverage.
For more than 60 years, the British population has become accustomed to free at point-of-use healthcare supplied by the NHS and financed by general taxation. However, as the UK - like many other developed nations - grapples with increasing healthcare costs, with major advances in the range of treatments available, it is inevitable that reforms will be necessary with the focus on the elimination of bureaucracy and the emphasis on front line services. The privately run healthcare sector - with its reputation for the provision of quality medical services in high standard facilities - is ideally placed to benefit from these changes.
The healthcare reforms in the UK should result in more opportunities for the privately run provisioning of medical services, with a resultant improvement in competition and standards within this sector of supply. This is expected to follow an increasing amount of interaction between the NHS and private medical suppliers as reforms are implemented.
General Healthcare Group
General Healthcare Group (GHG) is leading health care services provider in the UK. GHG's primary focus is treating private patients, while maintaining its position as a dynamic partner of the NHS. GHG has a network of 67 hospitals and treatment centres across the UK.
Ramsay Health Care
Ramsay Health Care was established in 1964 and has grown to become a global hospital group operating over 100 hospitals and day surgery facilities across Australia, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and France.
Spire Healthcare's mission is to be the best private provider of quality healthcare. Spire Healthcare has 26 year heritage in the private healthcare sector.
The Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)
The Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) is the largest private operator of healthcare facilities in the world. HCA operates some 170 acute care, psychiatric, and rehabilitation hospitals in the worldwide.
Europe's fourth largest insurance company, with more than 300 years of experience in the global insurance industry, Aviva is committed to the safety and satisfaction of its customers. They sell a broad range of insurance products including motor and property insurance, protection and health insurance, business insurance, life insurance and pensions.
Westfield Health is one of the most successful secure health insurers in the UK with over 90 years experience and more than a third of a million policyholders.