A blog from Andrew Vallance-Owen.

It’s not always easy to choose the care provider or treatment that’s right for you. There is a multitude of things to consider, and you are being asked to make this decision at a time when you are at your most vulnerable. That’s why I think it’s so important to have access to high-quality information when considering where to go and who to see for medical advice and treatment. Health Information Week (which runs from 1st-7th July) was a great opportunity for us, and others, to showcase the information out there that is available to help you when considering private treatment.

All hospitals in the UK are assessed regularly for their quality standards by the Care Quality Commission and the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) publishes the results of those inspections on our website. As well as the assessment of hospital processes and general standards, many patients are also interested in the results of the care by those hospitals and their consultants and should be. So, in addition to publishing the numbers of operations a hospital or consultant does (which gives an indication of their level of experience), PHIN will also be publishing information on deaths (generally very rare), infection rates and levels of patient satisfaction.

This information all builds a picture of the care provided and is similar to the type of information that can fairly easily be found on NHS services. However, I don’t believe that this alone can give a complete picture. Despite the increasing emphasis on the importance of health information, to date, little information has been collected on the actual health benefit or health ‘outcome’ that patients experience following their treatment. That is now changing.

Before taking up my current position as Chair of PHIN, I was the medical director of a group of private hospitals when we initiated the routine survey of patients having surgery to learn about the benefit (or not) of the treatment they had received. These surveys have become known as Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) and the feedback gained on clinical outcome from the patient perspective has proved valuable, both as information – when published – to help patients make decisions about who they would like to treat them, and to assist clinical teams to drive continuous improvement in surgical treatment.

The Competition and Markets Authority and PHIN have now mandated private hospitals to collect PROM data on a number of surgical treatments (such as cataract and prostate surgery) and cosmetic surgical procedures (such as breast enlargement). This information will allow you to understand not only the risk that things could go wrong but the likelihood of success – and what success might look like for you.

At PHIN, we believe that to make informed decisions on where and who to go to for advice and treatment, you should have access to a variety of information drawn from different sources. If you are asked to fill in one of these surveys I would encourage you to do so for the benefit of other patients in the future. Patients looking for advice and treatment will seek this type of satisfaction and outcome information in future, to better help make an informed choice suited to them.

Andrew Vallance-Owen | PHIN Chairman

Andrew left Bupa in March 2012 after 17 years as Group Medical Director (Chief Medical Officer). He is renowned as a champion of the measurement of healthcare outcomes from a patient perspective. He chaired the Department of Health’s PROMs Stakeholder Group from 2009 to 2013. Andrew has a number of other executive and non-executive roles. He is currently Chief Medical Officer of Medicover AB, a private healthcare company which operates in Eastern Europe, Germany and India and has just stepped down as Senior Independent Director of the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. He is currently involved in campaigning for better regulation of cosmetic procedures and for greater emphasis and funding to be given to promoting positive health across the UK.

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