A Battle over the future regulation of private hospitals is looming following publication of the government White Paper, Modernising Social Services.
The White Paper proposes a new regulatory framework for both the registration and inspection of long-term care facilities for nursing homes, residential homes, domiciliary care and children’s services.
However, there is some doubt about how private hospitals, currently the responsibility of health authorities, might be regulated in future. The White Paper makes clear that the Government is looking into how best it can deal with the regular on of the independent acute healthcare sector.
Meanwhile, MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee are to conduct an inquiry into the regulation of private and other healthcare this year. They have extended their remit to include seeking evidence on complaints procedures relating to the independent sector.
The Independent Healthcare Association (IHA) is opposed to moves by the Royal College of Nursing and the Consumers’ Association, who are seeking to have the powers of the health ombudsman extended to include the independent sector.
The IHA is arguing strongly for an independent form of self-regulation and complaints procedure, but is opposed to such powers being extended to the health ombudsman.
A third strand of development is contained in the proposals being worked on by the Private Practice Forum, representing providers, insurers, doctors and the IHA, on introducing clinical governance and quality assurance standards for private healthcare.
The powerful combination of the government White Paper, the MPs inquiry and the Forum proposals, will bring the whole issue of private hospital regulation under close scrutiny over the coming months.
Intense lobbying by interested groups can be expected during the year as MPs on the Health Select Committee get down to work.
The deadline for written evidence to be submitted to the committee was last month, and the submissions are likely to set the scene for the arguments which will be heard on all sides, before the government takes a final decision on regulation.