Eight NHS hospital trusts have given voluntary assurances to the OFT that they will stop exchanging commercially sensitive information regarding the treatment charges at their private patient units. The hospitals have also said that they will provide further training to their staff on the importance of complying with competition law where applicable.

The eight hospital trusts, all of whom were in the Southern Region Private Healthcare Association (SRPHA), had been approached by the OFT earlier in the year after a whistleblower disclosed evidence which suggested that the hospitals had been exchanging the pricing information.

The OFT will be writing to all NHS and foundation trusts that operate private health units enclosing guidance on competition law compliance.

This demonstrates that it is important for NHS trusts, as public bodies, to comply with the Competition Act 1998 when they engage in the commercial supply of goods or services. Exchanging commercially sensitive pricing information can constitute a breach of competition law as it can result in higher prices for customers by reducing the incentives for organisations to compete on price. Consequences of non-compliance with competition law can result in financial penalties being imposed on trusts which can include a fine of up to ten per cent of a body’s worldwide turnover.