Private healthcare sector trends 2022 – staffing levels, patient attitudes and concerns over ‘two-tier health system’
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Private healthcare sector trends 2022 – staffing levels, patient attitudes and concerns over ‘two-tier health system’

Private healthcare sector trends 2022 – staffing levels, patient attitudes and concerns over ‘two-tier health system’

Staff shortages are affecting healthcare sectors across the world, with the UK’s NHS one of the hardest hit. The latest NHS Digital vacancy statistics showed over 130,000 vacancies across England alone in June 2022. And the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also warned that globally, there’ll be a shortfall of 15 million health workers by 2030.

So in the face of these warnings over labour shortages, how is the private health sector faring? It is inevitably affected by staff shortages in the NHS, which have led to increased waiting times for patients – which in turn increases demand for private sector care.

The Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) has addressed staffing and a number of other key industry trends in a recent market update.

Staffing news

The UK’s private healthcare sector has around 90 providers, including Nuffield Health, Spire, Bupa, HCA, Circle and Ramsay.

The industry, which is believed to be worth around £9 billion a year, employs over 600,000 people. Of the 1.9 million people who work in the UK’s health sector overall, 32% work for private organisations.

According to the PHIN update, there have been a few changes in staffing levels over the last couple of years.

A major finding was that there were fewer consultants active in private healthcare during the pandemic, falling to a low of 1,800 in April 2020. Figures hopped up to 9,308 by September 2020, and increased again to 10,896 between April and September 2021.

While this demonstrates recovery following the pandemic, the figure was still 14% lower than pre-pandemic levels. However, activity was up by 5% during this time.

Looking at hiring trends for consultants in relation to speciality areas, PHIN’s analysis found that the drop in active consultants in 2021 was more pronounced in general medicine. Between 2019 and 2021, there’s been a huge 45% decline in the numbers of consultants working in this area.

Patient attitudes

With headline after headline bemoaning the increasing and worrying length of some NHS waiting times, industry insiders were fully expecting a boom in private healthcare uptake to occur. There were warnings that the UK would have a ‘two-tier health system’.

This doesn’t seem to have happened. As the staffing update above shows, the private market has actually cooled in recent months.

However, there has been a shift in patient opinions about private healthcare. And data has revealed at least a short-lived boost in uptake, with over 250,00 Brits opting to pay for private treatment in 2021 rather than use the NHS.

PHIN commissioned a YouGov poll to look more closely at how British people feel about private healthcare. The survey of over 2,000 adults found that 19% would be more likely to consider using private health services as a direct result of the pandemic. 67% said there was no difference in their opinion on the topic, while 8% said they’d be less likely to go private.

If you’re hiring in healthcare or searching for your next role, start your search with our specialists here at Linq Healthcare.