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Record-breaking private health admissions, amid NHS crisis

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Private hospital admissions hit record levels last year, with insured and ‘self-pay’ admissions at their highest levels ever.

With the nation’s health a key battleground in the upcoming general election, the latest data from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) shows that there were nearly 900,000 admissions to private hospitals in the UK in 2023.

This is more than any previous year and 7 per cent higher than 2022, which was also a record year for private hospital admissions.

Admissions funded by private medical insurance were at record levels, going above pre-pandemic figures for the first time.

The largest peak came in the final three months of 2023 when 161,000 private hospital admissions were funded this way. Insured admissions were 7 per cent higher in 2023 than in 2019.

Self-pay admissions – people paying for their own treatment rather than using insurance – were also at their highest ever level in 2023, peaking in the first three months of the year (73,000 admissions) before reducing slightly but staying well above (39 per cent) pre-pandemic levels.

Dr Ian Gargan, PHIN‘s chief executive, said: “These record figures show the important role the private sector plays in the nation’s health, something acknowledged by the major political parties.

“With NHS waiting lists at record levels, a growing number of people are looking for alternatives and choosing to use the private sector rather than risk prolonged waits and potentially seeing their health deteriorate.

“The number of people using private medical insurance, or opting to ‘self-pay’ for their procedure, has increased despite the difficult economic conditions over the past few years, demonstrating the importance people place on their health.”

He added: “With the majority of the private sector carrying out the more easily arranged and most common procedures, such as cataract surgery, hip replacements and knee replacements waiting lists can be reduced.

“The NHS can then concentrate on the more complex conditions and chronically ill patients. Cataract surgery continues to be the most common procedure for private hospital admissions, but there are a wide range of procedures carried out in the private sector and some private providers carry out highly specialist treatments and provide complex care.”

PHIN collected data from more than 600 private hospitals across the UK and also from over 10,000 consultants.

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