Covid’s impact in figures

By Edie Bourne

Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) data on private activity in the UK confirms experiences of those private practitioners who saw a slow start to 2021. 

Figure 1: Estimated count of private admissions (discharges) 2019-2021

It said the number of people receiving privately funded acute treatment remained ‘fairly consistent’ from December 2020, with 44,000 episodes of care in January compared with 49,000 in Dec­ember. February saw an increase in activity to 47,000 (Figure 1).

But January was down almost a third (32%) when compared to January 2020. February 2021 was 23% lower than the same month last year before the pandemic took hold in the UK (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Estimated change in activity by month compared to the previous year

The specialty split shows few significant changes in market share in 2021. During March and April 2020, as the UK went into lockdown, medical oncology grew to a market share of 43% of all private activity. 

The changes in market share were less dramatic at the beginning of 2021, with medical oncology growing 2% from 12% market share in December 2020 to 14% in February 2021.  

PHIN chief executive Dr Jon Fistein said: ‘While the signs at the end of last year pointed towards a potential recovery of private healthcare, the rise in hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients at the beginning of the year, along with the nationwide lockdown, seems to have led to a stagnation of private elective treatment. 

‘As we start to open up, we may start to see the longer-term impact on NHS waiting lists and private care. We will continue to monitor this from the unique data we hold on private admissions across the UK.’  

 Admissions are counted as the number of hospital stays completed within the reporting period. Year-on-year change is calculated using only sites with confirmed volumes from 2019, 2020 and 2021 for each month. 

While more hospital sites are submitting data, only those where a two-year comparison is possible have been included for year on year change. Estimates for 2020 and 2021 assume these sites are representative of the entire market, with confidence varying depending on number of submitting sites.