The government said on Thursday it was interested in reviewing its 5 billion pound private healthcare market to examine whether larger players were preventing new entrants, and therefore competition, in the sector.
The Office of Fair Trading said it had provisionally decided to refer the market for privately funded healthcare services to the Competition Commission to establish whether competition was being restricted or distorted.
Its provisional findings suggest that patients, doctors and insurance providers received little comparable information on the quality and cost of private healthcare providers, meaning that competition may not be as strong as it could be.
There is also a limited number of significant healthcare providers and a number of barriers which prevented new competitors from entering the market.
It is important that patient demand and choice are able to drive competition and innovation in this market with a view to better value for all patients, Chief Executive John Fingleton said in a statement.
We have provisionally decided that these significant concerns merit a more in-depth investigation by the Competition Commission.
Interested parties should respond to the consultation by the end of January and the OFT expects to have reached a final decision on the full referral by the end of March.