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News: Important new guidance for private practice

Private practitioners have faced rising pressure in recent months from insurance companies intent on cutting costs and increasing their profits.

A Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (Fipo) appeal is due to be heard in the courts over billing structures that it argues will dramatically change the face of private practice and threaten to affect the care that patients receive.

A separate court judgement last year represented a warning to private practitioners hoping to join forces in order to boost incomes when a group of clinicians who founded the Consultant
Eye Surgeons Partnership were fined £382,500 for breaching competition laws.

In the wake of that ruling Fipo has drawn up guidance, as has the Competition and Markets Authority, that aims to set out the current position and prevent others falling foul of the law. Fipo notes: “Consultants practise as ‘economic entities’ which may be as individuals (sole traders) or within another structure such as an LLP or limited company.

“When consultants operate as such ‘economic entities’ they are treated as ‘undertakings’ and competition law applies.”

This means that in their relationships with employers such as insurance firms, clinicians practising privately are likely to be governed by elements of competition law – “the prohibition of anti-competitve agreements and the prohibition of abuse of a dominant position.” Fipo is urging all those affected to ensure that they are fully abreast of their position.

The Fipo guidance is available via its website. Separate guidance issued by the Competition and Markets Authority is also available.