Page last updated at 21:33 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Private hospital 'could cause conflict of interest'

Matthew Hill
Health Correspondent, West

Questions have been raised about a possible conflict of interest regarding a private hospital near Bath.

The £30m Circle Bath has said that, once it has been approved by the health regulator, patients will be able to ask their GP for a referral to the centre.

But former chairman of the British Medical Association Dr Sandy Macara said he was concerned that 90 NHS doctors are allowed to own shares.

Circle Bath said there were very clear General Medical Council guidelines.

The owners of the hospital in Peasedown St John plan to treat about a third of their patients from the NHS under a system that allows patients to choose their hospital and book appointments.

Ejection threat

But Dr Macara said a conflict could be created if partner doctors were seeing patients in rival NHS hospitals.

"I would have thought that this situation does raise a very serious risk," he said.

But Dr Jonathan Boulton, medical chairman of Circle Bath, said he did not see a problem.

"There are very clear General Medical Council guidelines and if patients were referred into the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath they have treatment in the RUH," he said.

"Patients referred in here for their first appointment, they would be treated here.

"So we would be very strong on that. If we found that doctors were behaving in that way, the partnership would eject them."

The hospital is waiting for final approval from the Care Quality Commission before taking on NHS patients.



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