• More than 150 private hospitals and NHS run private units have not supplied data on their activity
  • Think tank concerned over conflict of interest and CQC’s reliance on the data
  • CQC calls for action on more nationally mandated data collections for private healthcare

More than 150 NHS run private units and independent hospitals have not submitted legally required data about the care they provide, HSJ has learned.

Last year, the Care Quality Commission cancelled its quarterly requests for data from private hospitals and units. Instead it uses data published by the Private Healthcare Information Network as part of its regulation of the independent sector.

However, the PHIN has raised concerns about the number of organisations not submitting data and said the information from many more is too poor to be published. It said most of the organisations not submitting data were NHS run private units.

The network was established in response to an investigation in 2014 by the Competition and Markets Authority that criticised lack of transparency in the sector. It covers independent hospitals and data from trusts’ private units.

In its annual report for 2016-17, published in December, PHIN chief executive Matt James said data quality had not improved, which delayed publication of “all but the simplest required measures”.

He said: “Not all hospitals are submitting data. While the PHIN is currently publishing information for 285 hospitals providing private healthcare services, there are still 230 hospitals that have not submitted sufficient data to appear on the PHIN’s website, including 151 that have not started submitting live data at all.”

The CMA can take enforcement action against hospitals that do not submit their data.

Earlier this week, the CQC highlighted its concerns over patient safety in private hospitals. It said the “lack of nationally mandated data” on care in the private sector was “an area that needs more focused attention”.

The Centre for Health and the Public Interest think tank, which has highlighted concerns over systemic safety risks in private hospitals, has written to the independent inquiry into the surgeon Ian Paterson, urging it to investigate the issues around private sector data and safety.

Professor Colin Leys, co-chair of the CHPI, said it was “astonishing” the CQC would use PHIN data, which he said had inherent conflicts of interest.

Professor Leys said: “Reliable, robust and independent data on patient safety is critical if systemic risks within hospitals are to be identified by regulators. Sir Robert Francis stressed in his first report into Mid Staffs that the collection and publication of data should be by organisations that are ‘unimpeachably independent’.

“Yet the PHIN is funded and governed by the private companies whose hospitals are submitting the data to it. Aside from the fact that the data returns from private hospital companies to the PHIN have been poor and the quality of the data substandard – a fact which puts patients at risk if relied on by the CQC – there is a major conflict of interest at the heart of this which needs to be addressed.”

A CQC spokeswoman said it judges all providers against the same standards and it expects private hospitals to submit data to the network. She added: “Where we found that providers are not able to evidence that they have processes in place to audit, monitor and report on outcomes, we have raised this as a concern and called for them to take action to improve.”

She said the CQC relied on multiple sources of information including inspections, specific data requests and notifications of serious incidents, which are required by law.

A PHIN spokesman said: “The majority of hospitals providing no data at all to the PHIN when the annual report was published were NHS hospitals, in respect of their private activity, not independent hospitals.

“Data completeness and accuracy does need to be improved by all private hospital operators, including NHS providers, to meet the CMA’s requirements and the PHIN’s standards. It must make sense for authorities to align behind a common set of data standards and to hold providers to a clear and common set of expectations rather than to pull in different directions.”

The NHS Partners Network, which represents the private sector, said: “The sector has always supported submitting data where it has a clear benefit to patients in terms of providing safe and high quality care. Clearly, submitting new lines of data requires systems and processes to be modified and can take time to implement, particularly with regards larger hospital groups, but where there is clear benefit the sector is happy to do so.”