The private healthcare sector incorporates hospitals which are part of large hospital groups such as BMI Healthcare, Spire Healthcare, Capio and Nuffield Hospitals, small independent and charitable hospitals, private patient units located within NHS Trust hospitals, and clinics providing services such as cosmetic surgery and laser eye treatment.
In the UK, the assessment and regulation of all hospitals and clinics involves organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive, and the Healthcare Commission. You could ask to see the hospital’s most recent inspection report by the Healthcare Commission or visit the Healthcare Commission web site. Additionally, some hospitals participate in quality schemes such as ISO 9000, and the Health Quality Service accreditation (HQS).
Ask about the hospital’s experience of your procedure. Some specialise in particular types of surgery such as orthopaedic surgery or eye surgery. Since not all independent hospitals have intensive care or high dependency units on site it is very important to find out what is in place in case of an emergency. If the hospital is located within an NHS Trust hospital it will have access to intensive care units but if it is a stand alone hospital check that it has arrangements in place to transfer a patient to a nearby NHS Trust hospital in case of emergency and/or an intensive care unit (for people recovering after major surgery or if complications occur after routine surgery).
You can ask about the professional registration of the private hospital’s clinical staff and check that this is up to date and that clinical staff and consultants are involved in continuing professional development (CPD), a requirement of the regulatory bodies. Or you may want to find out whether the hospital records, monitors and evaluates all accidents, clinical incidents and near misses.
Regarding cleanliness and safety, you can ask what the post-operative infection rate at the clinic/hospital is. All hospitals should carry out basic infection control surveillance and independent sector hospitals generally have a low rate of hospital acquired infection.