CMA says £1.2bn data firm merger could raise costs for NHS

CMA NHS Image credit: Marbury via Shutterstock

The UK’s competition regulator has raised concerns that a £1.2bn merger of two data firms based in the US and UK could result in higher costs for the NHS.

UnitedHealth, a US-based firm that provides data services to healthcare providers, announced plans to take over the competing Leeds-based firm EMIS back in June 2022.

However, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found that the deal could reduce competitiveness in the industry, resulting in potentially unfair treatment and higher prices for customers including the NHS.

The CMA has given the companies five days to produce an adequate plan to address the concerns of the regulator to prevent the deal from being blocked.

The UK’s health service has become increasingly reliant on data solutions to optimise healthcare. Firms like EMIS provide electronic patient record systems, which the majority of UK GPs use.

“The NHS and the millions of patients under its care depend on critical behind-the-scenes technology to ensure people are looked after and receive the treatment needed to get better,” said CMA senior mergers director Sorcha O’Carroll.

“This deal could see the NHS lose out on the benefits of competition, including innovation in these products and services and getting better value for money.”

O’Carroll said that UnitedHealth has the “opportunity to address our concerns, otherwise, it will progress to a more in-depth investigation”.

A spokesperson for Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth that handles the UK market, told UKTN: “With the full support of EMIS, we look forward to working with the CMA to agree upon suitable undertakings in lieu of reference to Phase II and obtaining the clearance necessary to successfully close our acquisition of EMIS.  A further update is expected to be provided on or around 31 March 2023.”