01 July 2020
Following a statement by the United Kingdom Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) relating to its investigation into suspected anti-competitive behaviour, Spire Healthcare, announces that it has accepted the investigation’s findings, which relate to initial consultation fees for Self-pay patients of a single specialty at Spire Regency Hospital, and has agreed to settle the case.
In August 2017 seven ophthalmology consultants practising at Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield agreed to align their fees for initial ophthalmology consultations provided to Self-pay patients at Regency with the result that four consultants increased this fee by £20 at this one hospital. Spire Regency Hospital facilitated the alignment with an intention to simplify pricing for patients.
Although Spire Healthcare did not financially benefit from this alignment, because initial consultation fees are paid directly to the consultant, the CMA investigation found that its behaviour in facilitating the alignment breached competition law. Spire Regency Hospital believes that approximately 150 Self-pay patients had relevant consultation appointments during this period.
Spire Healthcare apologises for its conduct and fully co-operated with the CMA in its investigation, agreeing to accept the CMA’s findings in full and settle the case with a fine of £1.2m. The CMA acknowledged the Group’s strong compliance programme, which resulted in a reduction to the final fine. The individual consultants also agreed to settle with fines in the range of £642 to £3,859 each.
It is important to note that this investigation related to conduct in 2017 regarding the charging of a small number of ophthalmology consultations at Spire Regency Hospital and did not in any way relate to the quality of patient care. Spire Regency Hospital is rated Good by the Care Quality Commission.
Continued focus on compliance
Spire Healthcare has a strong compliance culture and is disappointed with the failure to meet its standards in this isolated case. The Group remains committed to its learning culture and has further strengthened its compliance programme in response to this incident. Spire Healthcare is also investing in a new pricing system which will provide further controls to ensure compliance.