Scale of emergency transfers from private units revealed

Data made public today reveals 583 patients were urgently transferred to receive emergency care following treatment complications at independent hospitals and NHS private patient units (PPUs) during the year to June 2021.

The Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), which released the figures, said this  equates to a rate of one in every 1,000 patients treated and was most common in independent hospitals in England – occurring 518 times. 

Ten patients were transferred from private patient wards at English NHS hospitals to another facility. There were 28 instances in Scotland and 27 in Wales, all from independent hospitals. 

A total of 577,800 people across the UK received private healthcare treatment in the 12-month period and 340 private patients died. 

Most patients who died (304) were treated at independent hospitals in England. Another 32 private patients died following private treatment in NHS hospitals in England. The remaining deaths occurred in Scotland (two) and Wales (two), both at independent hospitals. 

This figure is a total of all mortalities, including patients who died during treatment for cancer and or for terminal care. 

A further 644 patients needed to be returned to theatre across the UK following complications in their treatment, while 975 were re-admitted to a hospital for emergency care related to their private treatment. 

PHIN said it had released the figures as part of its role ‘to support people considering private healthcare by providing independent information about safety and quality’. 

Chief executive Matt James said: ‘We have published this information to help patients get a clearer understanding of safety and risk when receiving private treatment at independent hospitals and NHS Private Patient Units.

‘The rate of these events is relatively small and the majority will inevitably happen in more complex cases, but it is still important to know that these are possible outcomes of treatment.’ 

PHIN’s message to would-be private patients is they have the right to research their care providers and to be comfortable that they are ‘the best fit’. 

It said its website information and advice helped inform people’s conversations with their hospitals and consultant.