The number of people paying for elective surgery and similar treatments in the UK has risen 39 per cent from pre-pandemic levels, driving growth in private healthcare, according to figures released on Friday.
Private healthcare providers admitted 198,000 patients in the October to December quarter of 2021, returning to the level hit in the same three-month period in 2019, a statement from the Private Healthcare Information Network showed.
Of those, 69,000 were self-pay admissions, against 50,000 in the same period of 2019. For the full year, self-pay rose 29 per cent compared with 2019.
Meanwhile, the number of patients choosing to receive treatment through insurance in the fourth quarter of last year was 13 per cent below 2019 levels, the independent, government-mandated organisation said.
Wales had the biggest jump, with 90 per cent more people — 3,575 — paying out of their own pocket. Scotland registered an 84 per cent increase. London was the biggest market with 13,875 people self-funding, up by a fifth from the final quarter of 2019.
Self-funding hip and knee replacements more than doubled while cataract surgeries rose 56 per cent.
Many have chosen to go down the self-funding route in the UK as NHS waiting lists have ballooned to more than 6mn, exacerbated by the pandemic. Payment options have also helped spread the cost.
The latest figures for May show a record 6.6mn people waiting for NHS treatment, with 2.4mn waiting longer than 18 weeks. The median waiting time is significantly higher than during pre-Covid times.
At the end of 2019, healthcare consultancy LaingBuisson put the UK’s self-pay market, which includes diagnostic and elective surgical procedures such as hip and knee replacement, at £1.1bn, comprising about 21 per cent of the private healthcare market.