Importance of good governance
The government inquiry into jailed rogue surgeon Ian Paterson will mean continued in-depth scrutiny of independent healthcare providers’ governance before a final report and recommendations are published next summer.
The inquiry, announced in December last year, is wide-ranging and will investigate current practices in the independent healthcare sector including: responsibility for the quality of care; the role of insurers; arrangements for medical indemnity cover for clinicians; appraisals and; information-sharing. It will also consider previously published reports into this case, including Verita’s investigation of Paterson’s practices at Spire healthcare, published in 2014.
Inquiries into serious professional malpractice are always high profile and rightly so, as they get to the heart of how patients have been harmed. However, political and media scrutiny of the Paterson inquiry is likely to be more intense than normal.
This is because, in addition to any findings of system or process failures, or evidence of wilful manipulation by a rogue doctor, the narrative for this inquiry is already written. The public perception that independent providers put profit before patients will shape the responses of politicians, commentators, journalists and social media users, regardless of the content of the final report.
There is not much the sector can do to re-balance this perception in the short term, and there is an argument that it does not affect its main customer base. However, negative coverage, more scrutiny, and potentially tighter regulation could have a significant effect on share price, increase corporate costs and see steeper insurance premiums.
Principles of good governance
Ed Marsden, managing director of Verita, the country’s leading consultancy for regulated organisations, says:
“One strategy independent healthcare providers could consider is using the next eighteen months to proactively get their house in order. We already know the broad areas the inquiry will focus on, including whether an organisation have learned lessons and acted on the 15 recommendations from our Paterson inquiry.”
“Taking action now is not only the right thing to do for patients, but also sets out a positive narrative of being good corporate citizens.”
Kiran Bhogal, partner & head of London healthcare for Hill Dickinson, says:
“There will be a call for greater accountability on the part of private healthcare providers and focus on organisational responsibility with patient safety taking centre place. Independent healthcare providers would be well advised to review and tighten their corporate, clinical and governance structures and hold their medical advisory committees accountable for the grant and oversight of practicing privileges. Linked to this will be the need to review regulatory registration and investigation procedures in a sector which has by and large escaped close scrutiny unlike the NHS.”
In a recent roundtable event, hosted by Verita and Hill Dickinson, governance leads from independent healthcare providers discussed the consequences that the Paterson inquiry will have on their governance surrounding practicing privileges and duty of candour. The message to all is to self-reflect, what does your governance really look like?