A consultant surgeon at a high-profile independent hospital has accused other private cancer care providers of ignoring conflicts of interest when negotiating work to support the NHS during the pandemic.
Satya Bhattacharya, consultant surgeon at The London Clinic, also criticised private medical insurers, accountancy firm KPMG and NHS managers for their approach during Covid-related work over the last year.
Speaking at the LaingBuisson Private Healthcare Summit, Bhattacharya said the issues had caused disruption when working with patients during the stress of the pandemic and felt insulting.
Analysing working as part of the NHS-private sector partnership, he first highlighted some of the frustrations and lack of trust in coordinating with NHS management.
“While the NHS was very happy to allow work to go through private hospitals there was a concern the private hospitals might still be slipping in stuff that wasn’t of the highest medical priority and certainly procedures for pain were seen as one thing the private sector was very keen to do but the NHS did not see it as a priority,” he said.
“Committees were set up full of really senior, sensible, well-meaning colleagues but we were told that private hospitals would only do stuff that would also be done in NHS hospitals at that point in time.
“I found those daily meetings to get approval for what cases can be done in our hospital very frustrating – I think it was for both sides. We would rather just be trusted to get on with things.”
Cancer conflicts of interest
Another challenge was the politics of the cancer hubs which formed from industry representatives to decide which cancer surgery went through different hospitals
But this raised serious criticism from Bhattacharya of some other private health providers for their self-interested approach when arranging cancer treatment.
“Interestingly, individuals who were affiliated to specific private providers were trying to engineer things to suit the advantage of themselves or their organisations, without giving thought to what that conflict of interest was doing to the overall utilisation of the independent sector,” he continued.
“So I found the cancer hub politics another point of vexation.”
Insurers’ insensitivity and KPMG nit-picking
Insurers were also reproached for insensitivity and failing to understand the situation within hospitals at times.
“Payers, especially private medical insurers were sometimes not very sensitive to how things were playing out with private patients,” Bhattacharya said.
“Many of them actually wanted to travel long distances and come into central London to have their treatment because they were not getting it in their local private hospitals.
“There was a degree of insensitivity to these changing dynamics.”
And the after-effects of working to support the NHS has left a bad taste in the mouth.
“One legacy we have been left with after the NHS collaboration is KPMG who are now coming back and trying to nit-pick various aspects of the payments that are still pending to the independent sector and that’s slightly insulting,” Bhattacharya concluded.
Health & Protection contacted both KPMG and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) about the criticism but neither offered a comment.
It is understood that KPMG’s contract with DHSC is not incentivised on the level of costs recovered from private providers.