By Robin Stride
A London independent hospital is reporting a 25% increase in the number of patients asking for details of self-pay pricing.
The London Clinic told Independent Practitioner Today it has seen a 5.6% rise in the number of patients coming through the door in the first four months of 2021 for pay-it-yourself treatments.
Both figures are comparisons to 2019 rather last year when Covid-19 sparked a large drop in activity.
Inpatient day case admissions are up 40% on last year and outpatient episodes up 122%.
The figures are reported as the charitable hospital sees encouraging results from a move last month to try and meet market needs and offer increased support for consultants and patients at the same time.
Business development manager Georgina Bishop said the hospital decided to expand its self-pay offering and heavily invested in setting up a new department that is prepared to give patients time as they talk things through. ‘If it takes 15 minutes, it takes 15 minutes – it is not a call centre environment.’
The hospital trebled its number of self-pay advisers so there is now a six-strong team managing inquiries from people who
represent just some of the massive backlog of pent-up demand. Consultants need support to help manage that too.
She said: ‘We focused on what the market needs. Patients are distressed, concerned about their health care and are having a lot of concerns about seeing their GP.
‘Rather than focus on targets and numbers, we talked about the service we wanted to offer – that was just as important to us. For me, it was more about being able to offer what I tend to think of as ‘a safe place to land’ for patients, a place where they can be listened to, take time and for us to understand their needs.
‘We wanted to be that team that would signpost people to the right services and consultant and see that they understand how it all works.’
Miss Bishop said one of the most important aspects of service is the ability to support patients whatever their needs – all in one place.
While The London Clinic’s self-pay efforts, which are helped by zero-interest-rate packages available through an outside lender, already show encouraging results, she thinks the non-insurance side of the market will flourish much more.
‘There was quite a pessimistic view of the self-pay market, but I don’t share that. I think in the next couple of years that’s going to escalate quickly. But I’m not sure I can put a number on that.’
Travel restrictions have so far hampered a resumption of international business. but self-payers have been coming from far afield in the UK, some from many hundreds of miles.
Miss Bishop said consultants understood inclusive pricing packages were now what many patients were looking for. ‘We have a range of all-inclusive packages so you know how much you are going to pay; they are really popular.
‘There have been a notable number of inquiries for gastro/intestinal procedures and bariatric surgery – the pounds have gone on during lockdown. ENT and ophthalmology is strong, plus cosmetic and reconstructive, and rhinoplasty.’
One of the first things consultants want to do when they start a new practice at the hospital is sign up for these packages, she said.
‘I think everybody is very happy to be back doing private work and being able to support those patients. Consultants are happy to be back seeing the support we are giving them.’