Private hospital operators looking to run private patient units in NHS hospitals are to face closer scrutiny by regulators to ensure such arrangements will not negatively affect competition, it has been announced.

Companies that operate private hospitals face being prevented from entering into business arrangements to run private NHS units if they already operate a hospital nearby, under rules unveiled by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA will be able to prohibit arrangements which it decides substantially lessen competition in the relevant local area.

HSJ understands that this ruling will not affect existing joint ventures between independent providers and NHS trusts.

The regulator, which inherited the Competition Commission’s role, last week published the findings of a two-year investigation into the state of competition in the private healthcare market.

The CMA found that the weak “competitive constraints” faced by private hospitals, including those currently operating PPUs, in a number of local areas, combined with barriers to market entry has led to higher prices for patients.

HCA, one of the biggest private hospital operators in the UK, is preparing to appeal a ruling by the watchdog ordering the company to sell-off either one or two of its Central London sites.

HCA International’s group commercial director Keith Biddlestone told HSJ that the company would be prepared to take their appeal up to the European Courts of Justice if necessary.

Mr Biddlestone said: “We’re looking forward to the appeal. We are looking forward to subjecting their flawed analysis to some genuine independent scrutiny, in front of some genuine independent judges. We are very confident that we will win.”

Among other changes will be bans on certain types of incentive schemes provided by hospital operators to clinicians.

The CMA orders will come into force from October, a spokeswoman said.