A surge in people choosing to pay for surgeries out of their own pockets has seen overall activity in the UK’s private healthcare sector bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.
More than 250,000 British people opted to pay for private healthcare themselves in 2021, instead of using the NHS, in a shift that has offset a drop in the number of insured people being admitted into private hospitals, figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network show.
The increase comes as the NHS case backlog currently sits at record highs of more than 6.6m, in a shift that has seen median wait times increase sharply compared to before the pandemic.
As of May 2022, 2.41m people face wait times longer than 18 weeks while more than 331,000 face wait times of more than a year, to receive NHS treatment.
The shift has seen the numbers of people paying for operations out-of-pocket increase 29 per cent since 2019, to a total of 258,445 last year.
The increase come amid sharp increases in the numbers of people opting to go private for common procedures such as hip replacements, knee replacements, and cataract surgeries.
The increase in the number of self-pay admissions offset a 16 per cent drop in the number of insured people using private hospitals, as total numbers of insured admissions dropped to 488,245 in 2021.
London remained the primary market for the UK’s private healthcare sector, ahead of the South East of England.
However, the numbers of people opting to go private increased sharply in Scotland, Wales, and the East Midlands amid fast-paced growth in the regions’ self-pay markets.