OFT orders investigation of private healthcare market

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has asked the Competition Commission to launch an investigation into the UK’s £5.5 billion private healthcare market.OFT orders investigation of private healthcare marketFollowing a public consultation in January, the OFT said that it suspected competition was being restricted.

It said it “continues to hold the view that the private healthcare market could work better for patients”.

The market is of growing importance due to an ageing population and improved medical outcomes, according to the OFT.

Among the concerns raised by the OFT are:

  • a lack of information about the pricing and quality of services that would enable patients to compare healthcare providers
  • the small number of healthcare providers and insurers nationally, which limits choice and competition
  • practices that make it harder for new competitors to break into the market, such as loyalty payments to consultants.

The Competition Commission has the power to demand that firms change business practices and spin off specific business interests, if it deems these to be harmful to market competition.

The investigation could take up to two years to complete.

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