‘Promising signs of recovery’ for private sector

2018, 2019 and 2020 (estimated) count of private admissions

Private healthcare activity is showing ‘promising signs’ of recovery, according to the lead doctor at the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN).

His comments came after the organisation announced private elective care in October had returned to pre-Covid volumes, ‘suggesting the private insured and self-pay market had largely recovered’.

Dr Jon Fistein

PHIN chief medical officer Dr Jon Fistein said: ‘We’re continuing to see a strong recovery in the private healthcare market. 

‘However, while admissions were largely back to pre-Covid numbers, and the market share is broadly similar, it’s still too early to say whether things are back to “normal”, or what “normal” will even look like following this year of significant market disruption.

‘The second lockdown will inevitably also have an impact, but overall the signs are promising for the sector.’

Although activity in October was estimated to be 7% lower than the same month in 2019, the estimated 64,000 elective admissions was higher than before the pandemic in February.

With admissions at a similar level to pre-covid, the type of activity was also trending in a similar pattern to the months before the pandemic, said PHIN.

This followed significant disruption to the market which saw medical oncology grow to an estimated 47% of all elective private admissions during the height of the first lockdown in April.

For the first time, some specialties were seeing higher volumes than before the pandemic. Gynaecology had 3,600 admissions compared with 2,900 in January, while its market share was up 2% from the beginning of the year to a high of 6%. 

Ophthalmology was also up 2% in market share at 11%, and admissions at a year high of more than 7,000.

Elsewhere, some specialties have not recovered at the same rate, with plastic surgery and ENT down on the beginning of the year both in market share and admissions.

Private activity by specialty as % total admissions