Triple-digit percentage point rise in self-pay

New figures released today reveal a triple-digit percentage point rise in patients paying out of their own pockets for hip and knee operations.

Self-funded hip replacements increased 167%, when comparing July to September 2019 figures against the same period in 2021.

Self-funded knee replacements saw a 127% cent rise, while the third largest increase was cataract operations at 63%.

Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) figures for this second quarter of 2019 say 49,700 people opted to self-fund all types of private treatment, while for the corresponding months in 2021 – as pandemic restrictions eased – 67,100 people chose this route, a 35% rise.

There was a 16% drop in those paying for private healthcare through their own insurance policy, down from 141,900 to 119,100.

For hip replacements, 1,800 people self-funded during the 2019 period compared to 4,800 in the 2021 period.

Similarly, 8,100 opted to self-fund for cataract surgery during July and September 2019 compared to 13,200 during the same period in 2021. Knee replacements rose from 1,100 to 2,500.

Insurance flags

In contrast, those paying via pre-existing insurance policies in place saw only single-digit percentage rises during these periods with:

  • Hip operations increasing by only 4% – from 2,300 to 2,400;
  • Cataract surgery up by 6% – from 7,100 to 7,500;
  • Knee replacements showing a 6% increase – from 1,600 to 1,700.

News of the growth in people self-funding treatment comes as a new YouGov poll [2] commissioned by PHIN shows just under a fifth of adults in the UK (19%) say the Covid-19 pandemic has made them more likely to consider using private healthcare – a 3% decrease on when it asked the same question through YouGov polling in August 2021.

Eight per cent said they were less likely, while 67%  said the pandemic has made no difference.

Twelve per cent of respondents said they had used private healthcare services since the pandemic. Four out of ten of those stated they would have opted to use NHS services for the type of care they received before the pandemic.

PHIN said this indicated there were areas where new patients are entering the private market when they would not have before.

Consultant figures

Figures also show consultants are slowly moving back to work the private market. But the survey found fewer consultants actively treating private patients than before the pandemic.

According to PHIN, in April 2020 there were only 1,800 consultants actively providing private healthcare during the pandemic. It said: ‘This figure has now risen to 8,100 as of September 2021. But is still short of pre-pandemic levels which saw up to 9,200 consultants actively providing private care in September 2019.’

PHIN chief executive Matt James said: ‘Our data shows a significant rise in people paying out of their own pocket for common procedures like joint replacements and cataract surgery since the pandemic. However, levels of private care overall are flat, as activity levels for people who have private insurance remain lower after the pandemic.’

In a message to patients, he added: ‘It’s important to know what questions to ask, and to choose hospitals and consultants that are transparent about their costs and clinical performance. 

‘I would urge people to check that their care providers appear on our independent website, which is there to help people research their options with both guidance and data.’