By Robin Stride
Private healthcare and consultants’ earnings are seeing a ‘modest revival’ in the fourth month of the pandemic, according to leading digital services provider Healthcode.
It recorded a slight improvement in insured patients’ activity in the first half of June. Billing volumes in the third week of May were 67% down on the same period in 2019, but had revived slightly in June when they were 56% below the previous year’s figure.
The company analysed data generated as part of its core bill validation and clearing service. This usually processes over 27,000 invoices daily for approximately 98% of hospital providers and 70% of individual practitioners, providing a valuable guide to market trends.
Unsurprisingly, levels of activity were significantly lower during May than the same period last year, particularly in the orthopaedics and trauma specialty as private hospitals and consultants contributed to the response to the pandemic.
But Healthcode said the data did not support fears of a total shutdown.
A spokesperson said: ‘Comparing May 2020 with the same period last year, hospital activity had fallen by 77%, with billing for outpatient care down by 76% and admitted care down by 79%. Non-hospital activity had fallen by 60% on May 2019.’
Wales was the most affected UK country in May with activity down by 87% during the month, while Scotland saw a 76% fall and England was down by 71%.
The region least affected was the West Midlands, down by 57% on 2019 while London was down by 66%.
Comparing hospital specialties, oncology represented 21% of overall hospital activity in May, the most of any specialty.
By comparison, orthopaedics and trauma had been the busiest specialty in 2019 but accounted for only 10% of activity in May 2020.
Physiotherapy billing volumes fell by 56%, while psychiatry was up by 16%.
This could reflect a greater level of demand amid the strain of the pandemic and the ability of specialists to provide remote treatment.
Healthcode said it had sought to support independent practitioners during their income drop as much as possible by giving uninterrupted support during lockdown.
Managing director Peter Connor said: ‘Private healthcare providers rightly stepped up during the Coronavirus pandemic, contributing facilities and staff in the national interest.
‘Our most recent data gives grounds for cautious optimism that private healthcare provision is starting to pick up and shows the resilience of the sector.
‘Nonetheless, this is the early stages of recovery and we will monitor the trend closely in the coming weeks on behalf of the sector.’