There is a growing concern about the level of care provided to patients at private hospitals and clinics in the UK.

There has been much publicity surrounding surgeons such as Ian Paterson, Habib Rahman, Arackal Manu Nair and Michael Walsh.

Mr Ian Paterson, a Breast Surgeon based in Birmingham, is currently serving a 20-year sentence after being found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding in 2017.  The scale of his malpractice, which spanned 14 years shocked the country.  Whilst most of his patients were treated at private hospitals, their treatment was funded by the NHS.

Hundreds of patients were recalled over fears that Mr Habib Rahman, Orthopaedic Surgeon carried out unnecessary procedures on them.

Dr Arackal Manu Nair was alleged to have given prostate cancer treatment to patients who did not have the disease.  He was also alleged to have given some patients laser treatment – a high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) – which was yet to be approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice).

Mr Micheal Walsh, a Shoulder Surgeon based in Leeds, was suspended by Spire Healthcare and reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) after numerous patients and some of his colleagues raised concerns about his work.  He provided treatment at private hospitals both privately and funded by the NHS.

Spire Healthcare were prosecuted and pleaded guilty for breaching the duty of candour in failing to give four patients prompt explanations about their inadequate treatment by Mr Walsh.  Spire Healthcare subsequently carried out investigations into the treatment provided to multiple patients of Mr Walsh which uncovered examples of him harming patients by performing surgery on them unnecessarily or badly.

Treatment at Private Hospitals

Doctors are referring increasing numbers of patients to private hospitals because understaffing and the raising demand for care means the NHS is struggling to treat people quickly enough.

The concern about the level of care provided to patients being treated in private facilities is twofold.

  • Private hospitals allow doctors to work under “practising privileges”, which means they do their own thing, unsupervised. Over the past decade there have been concerns that a small number Consultants are putting profits before people and carrying out unnecessary or inadequate procedures, as highlighted above.
  • Patients are not being advised of the potential risks associated with the deficiencies in their facilities, equipment or staffing should an emergency occur.

Concerns patients are not being made aware of potential risks

Patients often believe they will receive a higher level of healthcare at a private hospital or clinic than that of the NHS. Consultants often work for both NHS and private providers simultaneously therefore the standard of expertise is the same. The perceived benefit often lies in the facilities as private hospitals and clinics tend to be modern and more comfortable.

Medical mistakes can happen at any time, and be made by any individual, in any medical facility.  The concern is patients are not being made aware of the potential risks associated with having treatment in a private facility.

Many people are not aware of the difference between the staffing and resource levels of a private hospital and that of an NHS unit.

The treating consultant will often leave once they have carried out the procedure due to commitments at other hospitals. Patients are often unaware that these facilities don’t always have consultants on site and patients staying for aftercare are typically in the care of a Registered Medical Officer (RMO), who is often at the beginning of their medical career and solely responsible for the patients.

This can result in a delay or failure to recognise when a patient’s condition is deteriorating and escalate the matter to a consultant.

Most private facilities do not have intensive care units. Should a medical emergency occur, it is likely that the patient will need to be transferred to an NHS hospital for proper care and access to the necessary equipment.  The time it can take to transfer a seriously unwell patient can lead to a significant increase in risk.

Clinical Negligence Claims

The clinical negligence team at Ison Harrison Solicitors see a large number of cases that arise out of care provided in the private sector. Some are straightforward negligence, but some arise because the hospital itself does not have the facilities to deal with emergency situations.

If you or a loved one have suffered harm following treatment at a private hospital or clinic contact the medical negligence team at Ison Harrison for compassionate and confidential legal advice, either by phone on 0113 284 5000 or email via


Share this...