On 22 June 2012, the UK Competition Commission (CC) published its issues statement as part of its market investigation into the private healthcare market. The Office of Fair Trading found that there are a number of features of the market that it believes could prevent, restrict or distort competition, and referred the market to the CC for in-depth investigation pursuant to its powers under sections 131 and 133 of the Enterprise Act 2002. The CC is now undertaking its own investigation to determine whether any feature or combination of features of the market has an adverse effect on competition and, if so, what action should be taken to remedy this.

In the issues statement the CC sets out its proposed approach to market definition and how it intends to analyse competition in the relevant markets. It then explains the factors that it will be considering in examining seven separate “theories of harm” (market power of hospital operators in certain local areas; market power of individual consultants and/or consultant groups in certain local areas; market power of hospital operators during national negotiations with insurers; buyer power of insurers in respect of individual consultants; barriers to entry at different levels; limited information availability; and vertical effects).

The CC notes that these are theories and their identification does not mean the CC has reached any conclusions on whether they apply.

The CC invited evidence based on the issues identified by 20 July 2012.The CC is required to report by 3 April 2014, the inquiry timetable sets out the various stages for the investigation.