We’re helping patients to access private care

Independent Healthcare Providers Network boss David Hare says it is stepping up its work to ensure as many patients as possible can benefit from ‘the fantastic treatment delivered by independent practitioners across the country’.

Clinicians working across the independent healthcare sector cannot have failed to notice the rising demand for their services in the last few years. 

There are several factors behind this, from the practical – such as rising waiting times for NHS care – to more subtle behavioural changes. 

Indeed, the pandemic has undoubtedly led many people to think more about the importance of their own health and how they can take a more proactive approach to managing their physical and mental well-being.

With these forces at play, many more people are now paying for treatment, including those who never previously would have considered private care. 

IHPN explanatory animation on Twitter to explain how it can help patients with private care

And in response to this trend, the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) is keen to play its role in providing insights on the public’s appetite and knowledge around private healthcare.

We want to support independent practitioners in ensuring as many people as possible can benefit from our resources and we aim to develop new resources to help support the next generation of private patients.

Incredible figures

Earlier this year, we commissioned some polling from Savanta ComRes which found that around half (48%) of people agree that they would consider private healthcare if they needed treatment, with one in five (21%) believing that they are likely to use private healthcare in the next 12 months. 

These are incredible figures and really demonstrate the growing relevance that independent healthcare practitioners will have in people’s lives in the coming months and years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those most likely to agree that they would consider private healthcare are those with higher – albeit not huge – incomes of over £48,000 and traditional ‘ABC1’ backgrounds. 

Interestingly, those most open to paying privately also include people from ethnic minority backgrounds as well as younger age groups – notably 18-34 year-olds and 35-54 year-olds. 

With younger people used to paying for convenience on everything from Uber to Deliveroo and Netflix, paying for swift access to healthcare is the obvious next step for those wanting a quick test/appointment or treatment. 

Appetite to know

While there is clearly growing demand from all directions, our polling also found there is real appetite to understand more about how private healthcare works, with just over a third of people agreeing they would like to know more about the process. 

This is particularly key given some gaps in people’s knowledge about private healthcare. 

Our research found that over one-in-three people (37%) are not aware that it is possible to ‘mix and match’ private and NHS healthcare – for example, paying privately for a scan and then having an operation through the NHS – with two-in-five people (39%) not being aware that it is possible to speak to their GP about accessing private healthcare.

With more and more people considering private healthcare and eager to understand how it works, IHPN recently teamed up with the Patients Association to develop some new resources for the public to better understand how to access and pay for private healthcare. 

Working together with a patient focus group, we have produced a new animation to support people on how to navigate private healthcare, looking at issues including:

 How to access private healthcare;

 Mixing and matching NHS and private healthcare;

 How to choose a private doctor or healthcare provider;

 How to pay for private healthcare.

This animation is being promoted by members of the IHPN and, alongside the Patients Association, we will also be encouraging patients to make use of the Care Quality Commission and Private Healthcare Inform­ation Network websites for information on the quality and safety of independent practitioners and providers across England.

With more people looking to pay privately for their healthcare, this is just the start of IHPN’s journey in helping independent doctors and providers to better understand and support the next generation of private patients.

David Hare (right) is chief executive at the IHPN