A new poll from YouGov shows almost one in five adults in the UK may be more likely to consider private healthcare since the pandemic.

New figures show that since the pandemic there has been a triple digit percentage point rise in patients paying out of their own pockets for hip and knee operations.

Self-funded hip replacements increased 165 per cent, when comparing July to September 2019 figures against the same period in 2021, while self-funded knee replacements saw a 122 per cent rise. The third largest increase was cataract operations at 64 per cent.

However, the figure for those paying for private healthcare with an insurance policy has seen a drop.

The new figures have been released by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) - the independent, government-mandated source of information on privately funded healthcare in the UK, in their latest market insights analysis.

According to their analysis, while overall the number of people opting to use private healthcare has remained broadly the same, more people are opting to use the ‘self-pay’ route.

For the quarter running from July to September 2019, 49,700 people opted to self-fund all types of private treatment, while for the corresponding months in 2021 – as pandemic restrictions eased – 67,100 people chose this route, a 35 per cent rise.

Across the same periods, there was a 16 per cent drop in those paying for private healthcare through their own insurance policy from 141,900 to 119,100.

In regards to hip replacements, 1,800 people self-funded during the 2019 period compared to 4,800 in the 2021 period.

Similarly, 8,100* opted to self-fund for cataract surgery during July and September 2019 compared to 13,200 during the same period in 2021. Knee replacements rose from 1,100 to 2,500.

In contrast, those paying via pre-existing insurance policies in place saw only single digit percentage rises during these periods with hip operations increasing by only eight per cent (from 2,300 to 2,400), cataract surgery up by six per cent (from 7,100 to 7,500) and knee replacements showing a small one per cent increase (from 1,600 to 1,700).

News of the growth in people self-funding treatment comes as a new YouGov poll commissioned by PHIN shows just under a fifth of adults in the UK (19 per cent) say the Covid-19 pandemic has made them more likely to consider using private healthcare – a three per cent decrease on when it asked the same question through YouGov polling in August 2021.

Eight per cent said they were less likely, while 67 per cent said the pandemic has made no difference.

Twelve per cent of respondents said they had used private healthcare services since the pandemic. Interestingly, four out of ten of those (41 per cent) stated they would have opted to use NHS services for the type of care they received before the pandemic.

This indicates that there are areas where new patients are entering the private market when they wouldn’t have before.

Figures also show consultants – the vast majority of whom focused on supporting the NHS during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic – are slowly moving back to work the private market. However, according to the latest figures there are still fewer consultants actively treating private patients than before the pandemic.

In April 2020, there were only 1,800 consultants actively providing private healthcare during the pandemic. This figure has now risen to 8,100 as of September 2021. But is still short of pre-pandemic levels which saw up to 9,200 consultants actively providing private care in September 2019.

Matt James, Chief Executive of the Private Healthcare Information Network, said:

“Our data shows a significant rise in people paying out of their own pocket for common procedures like joint replacements and cataract surgery since the pandemic. However, levels of private care overall are flat, as activity levels for people who have private insurance remain lower after the pandemic.
“PHIN’s role is to help people make sure they are fully informed, so they make the choices that are right for them and avoid any nasty surprises. This is especially important for anybody who is new to private healthcare and paying themselves, as they do not have an insurer to help them.
“It’s important to know what questions to ask, and to choose hospitals and consultants that are transparent about their costs and clinical performance. I would urge people to check that their care providers appear on our independent website, which is there to help people research their options with both guidance and data.”

PHIN provides a range of useful data about private healthcare hospitals and consultants on its website at?www.PHIN.org.uk, including consultants’ fees for their initial consultations and a guide to self-funding treatment. This helps people make sure they know what they will be charged as well as provides details on how to fix costs by opting for a package price. 

Notes to editors

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.

YouGov polled 2,092 people aged 18 or over across Great Britain between 15th and 16th of March 2022. The poll was carried out online and the figures have been weighted and are representative of the GB adult population. 

For more information or for media queries, please contact press@phin.org.uk 

*Article originally stated 9,100 people opted to self-fund for cataract surgery during July and September 2019, this has been corrected to 8,100.