More patients turning to private healthcare in the UK, report finds
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More patients turning to private healthcare in the UK, report finds

More patients turning to private healthcare in the UK, report finds

A new report has found that there’s been a continuous rise in the number of UK patients interested in private healthcare over the last decade, accelerating in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.   


Researchers from LaingBuisson highlighted a trend towards increased spending on private health and wellbeing services back in 2020-21. The latest Private Healthcare Self-Pay UK Market Report shows that this trend has continued into 2022.  


The total value of what is described as the ‘self-pay market’ hit a new high of £1.117 billion in 2020, but has been growing every year since 2010.  


Private hospitals are expecting this trend to continue for at least another 3-5 years. And around 50% of industry figures predict the market could grow by as much as 15% by 2025. 


Why are more patients going private?  


Some of the reasons behind the increased interest in private health services will come as no surprise, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic.  


At the top of the list for patients is NHS waiting lists. The NHS has experienced major backlogs for non-urgent procedures over the last couple of years due to coronavirus, but the health body’s 18-week treatment targets have not been met since 2016.  


In December 2021, the number of people on a waiting list for hospital treatment hit a record high of 6.1 million. Only 67% of cancer patients wait less than the target of 62 days, and waiting times of over 12 hours for emergency admission has become much more common.   


Separate research by the IPPR thinktank supports this, showing around 30% of people found it difficult to access healthcare during the pandemic. Of these, around 12% went private and a further 26% considered it.  


But the LaingBuisson report also identified other reasons why more patients are going private. These include greater pricing transparency and access to payment plans within private healthcare. This makes it easier and potentially more affordable for patients to ‘go private’ than was formerly the case.  


Commenting on the findings and warning that the private healthcare sector may face challenges in meeting rising demand, report author Liz Heath said: 


“There does appear to be a direct correlation between the well-publicised and lengthening NHS waiting lists and waiting times for elective procedures and diagnostics and enquiries around self-pay. Since those waiting lists are not falling, we would expect demand to be sustained as people seek to access treatment. The question for the private healthcare sector is whether it has the staff and resources to meet that demand.” 


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