New survey shows one in five people say they are more likely to use private healthcare amid post-pandemic concerns over NHS waiting lists.

London, 23 October: People needing routine procedures such as hip operations and cataract surgery are being encouraged to thoroughly research their care options and the costs as new figures indicate more are paying out of their own pocket.

The Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) collects and holds a unique resource of information on the sector and says it is noticing a rise in people self-financing their care compared to using insurance policies, which do not typically cover pre-existing conditions.

New figures from PHIN - the independent, government-mandated source of information on private healthcare in the UK - show that in the first half of 2021 (January to June) people self-funding hospital-based private treatment [1] made up a third (32.9 per cent) of all private admissions for the first time.

Figures show that for the quarter running from April to June 2019, 50,000 people opted to self-fund private treatment, while for the corresponding months in 2021 – as the pandemic restrictions eased, 65,000 people chose this route. This indicates a rise of 30 per cent in people self-funding treatment between these two periods. Self-paying is at its highest among 60 to 79-year-olds.

The growth in self-pay is particularly evident for some procedures including cataract surgery and hip replacement with both now more commonly self-funded than paid for through insurance.

In regards to hip-replacements, 2,200 people paid for their procedure through insurance in the quarter from April to June 2019, while 1,700 self-paid. Figures for the corresponding quarter in 2021 indicate a reversal in the way people fund their treatment, with 4,700 using their own money compared to 2,500 using insurance.

For private cataract operations, 7,300 people used an insurance policy in quarter from April to June 2019 while 8,100 self-paid. In the same quarter this year, 6,100 used insurance compared to 11,400 self-paying.

Now PHIN is encouraging people who go down the self-pay route for whatever reason to thoroughly research their care provider and payment options before accessing treatment.

And it adds that people considering self-paying should ask whether their hospital and consultant offer a ‘package price’ where costs for common private treatments are outlined from the outset.

News of the growth in people self-funding treatment comes as a new YouGov poll shows more than a fifth of people (22 per cent) say the Covid-19 pandemic has made them more likely to consider using private healthcare compared to before. [2].

According to the survey, commissioned by PHIN, 83 per cent of those that are more likely to consider private healthcare believe they can be treated quicker privately for various reasons such as there being more flexible options when booking treatment. In addition, more than seven out of ten (71 per cent) cite concerns over NHS waiting lists as a reason why they would consider going private, as the latest NHS figures show 5.7 million people on NHS waiting lists.

Affordability is a barrier to many, with 71 per cent citing concerns over the cost of private healthcare treatment. 62 per cent say the pandemic has made no difference to whether they would consider going private.

“Our poll helps shine a light on how people’s opinions are forming over healthcare since the outset of Covid-19 with more than a fifth saying that since the pandemic they are now more likely to consider going private.
“With hundreds of thousands of NHS and private elective operations lost in 2020 due to the pandemic, and waiting lists consistently in the news, it is perhaps unsurprising to see people considering self-funding private treatment even if they had not done so previously.
“We would say to all those thinking about this route to make sure they are fully informed so they make the choices that are correct for them and to avoid surprises. It’s important to ask the right questions about costs as well as the performance of the consultant and hospital facilities.
“Our website can help people research their private healthcare options, helping them navigate a confusing system, particularly those self-paying.”

Matt James, Chief Executive of PHIN

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[1] PHIN’s data relates to privately-funded admitted elective treatment delivered in hospitals or clinics. It does not include activity such as mental health, physiotherapy services, outpatient treatments or diagnostic tests.

[2] YouGov polled 2,127 people aged 18 or over across Great Britain between 5th and 6th of August 2021. The poll was carried out online and the figures have been weighted and are representative of the GB adult population. A copy of the poll’s findings can be accessed from PHIN’s press office.