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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK


Watchdog for private health care

There is to be much tighter regulation of the private healthcare sector

An independent watchdog to monitor standards in the private health care system is to be set up by the Department of Health.

The new body will regulate private hospitals and cosmetic surgery clinics in a bid to protect private patients against cowboy practitioners.

At present there are no official minimal standards of treatment and care in private hospitals.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the new proposals would give patients assurances that staff at private hospitals and clinics were fully trained and that sufficient equipment was available to carry out treatments.

The government will announce the establishment of the watchdog in the next fortnight.

The rigorous new checks will include an open complaints procedure under which hospitals would have to make public any complaints made against them.

'There should be a single body'

Barry Hassell, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Association (IHA), said his organisation had been campaigning for better regulation of the independent sector for ten years.

But he said: "The IHA believes there should be a single, national regulatory system that defines the standards of clinical care that a patient has a right to expect, and that should apply to all health care practitioners, whether they work in the NHS or the independent sector.

"A patient should not have to be concerned about different regulatory systems."

Mr Hassell said the best solution would be to include regulation of the independent sector within the remit of the government's new Commission for Health Improvement.

Series of scandals

[ image: Health Secretary Frank Dobson ordered a clampdown on private healthcare]
Health Secretary Frank Dobson ordered a clampdown on private healthcare
Health Secretary Frank Dobson decided to introduce tougher regulation of Britain's 300 private hospitals in the wake of a series of scandals.

Speaking to a committee of MPs earlier this month, Mr Dobson said that current rules which treated private hospitals as nursing homes were "wholly inadequate".

Mr Dobson highlighted the case of a gynaecologist - who was banned from operating in the NHS after injuring many women patients, but continued to work at a private hospital - as demonstrating the need for change.

An inquiry is to be held into the case of Rodney Ledward, who was banned from practising last September after a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing found him guilty of serious professional misconduct linked to botched operations.

One woman had her ovaries removed without her consent and another suffered a ruptured bladder. Many other women have claimed they suffered following treatment from Mr Ledward.

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