Anaesthetist fees: ignorance is not bliss

Generally, everyone would agree that when purchasing or arranging for any professional service, discussions would take place in advance regarding the scope of the service required and the cost for that service. It’s not only considered to be good practice but a basic principle of contract law that the price or fee should be agreed prior to the service being delivered.

Within the private healthcare sector, the same principle applies when professional healthcare services are provided to patients. This is not normally a problem because a patient will meet with their consultant during the consultation and diagnostic phase, allowing plenty of time to discuss any proposed treatment and the relevant costs for that treatment in relation to the patient’s medical cover. The patient then has time to authorise their care with their healthcare plan provider prior to any treatment taking place, particularly as most private treatment is elective and planned rather than an emergency that would be the cared for by the NHS.

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However, the situation can become complicated regarding the payment of professional fees for the anaesthetist. Many consultants will regularly work with a particular anaesthetist or be supplied an anaesthetist from a network if the anaesthetists in that area work as a group or as an association. Either way, this can cause a patient a problem because often the first time they will see the anaesthetist is on the day of treatment, which is not the time to be talking about professional fees. By far the largest proportion of issues that arise due to problems with professional fees relate to anaesthetists.

There are a number of recommendations that you can put in place that could help avoid this scenario, which you can read about in our latest In Focus. It is important to be aware of this potential but hopefully rare problem so that no one is financially disadvantaged after their treatment.