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Private providers see surge in demand as PM blames long NHS waiting lists on strikes

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 18 September 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p2126
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

As the NHS waiting list in the UK nears eight million, the private healthcare sector is reporting record levels of admissions, reports Elisabeth Mahase

Private healthcare providers saw record high numbers of UK patients being admitted at the start of this year, with 227 000 between January and March, 17 000 more than in the same quarter in 2022, the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) has reported.1

Seemingly ever growing NHS waiting lists are being cited as a significant contributor to the trend.

“Following a record year in 2022, the first three months of 2023 continued the trend, and we saw the highest levels of private healthcare admissions,” PHIN clinical adviser Chris Smith-Brown said. “There are a variety of factors influencing the growth in private healthcare admissions, with the long NHS waiting lists, and particularly the uncertainty around how long you’ll be waiting, key among them.”

The picture varies across the UK. The number of insured admissions to private services rose by 13% in England (from 127 110 to 144 045) and 23% in Scotland (5090 to 6255), while falling slightly in Wales (3120 to 3090) and Northern Ireland (2875 to 2710).

Meanwhile, self-pay admissions (paid for out of pocket rather than through insurance) increased by 22% in Northern Ireland (1985 to 2415) and 18% in Wales (3600 to 4250). Self-pay admissions stayed broadly the same in Scotland (4900 to 4960), while decreasing slightly in England (61 315 to 59 335).

Increase in self-paying since pandemic

Overall, the demand for self-pay private care has notably increased since the covid-19 pandemic, with …

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