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Private hospitals look to NHS for elective operations as private medical insurance falls

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7510 (Published 06 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7510
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

The number of NHS patients treated in privately run hospitals rose by nearly 11% in 2011-12, data from the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre show. The admissions covered common elective procedures such as cataract, knee, and hernia operations, carpal tunnel surgery, endoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy.

In 2011-12 there were eight million non-emergency admissions in the NHS in England, with private providers accounting for 345 200 of them (4.3%), up from 312 324 (4%) in 2010-11. No reliable figures exist for earlier years because, the centre said, data from the independent sector had only recently reached a level sufficient to provide a meaningful comparison.

The rise reflects, among other changes, the increasing willingness of private providers to negotiate deals with the NHS at a time when income from patients with private medical insurance has been in decline. Across the private sector as whole NHS patients accounted in 2010-11 for a quarter of revenues: £1.1bn of a total of £4.1bn.

While NHS work is not very profitable for private providers, as it must be carried out within the same tariff as is paid to NHS hospitals, it has helped fill a gap left by declining numbers of patients with …

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