More private providers offer loans to help patients pay

BMA private practice conference.

As many as 90% of private hospital operators and hospital groups are now doing something to help patients spread the cost of their self-pay treatments.

Richard Gregory

Independent healthcare adviser Richard Gregory, director of strategy at Chrysalis Finance, told existing and would-be private doctors these were mainly interest-free loans over six to 12 months, and interest-bearing over 24 to 60 months.

Arrangements to spread the cost had become a fundamental way of securing self-pay business, because if patients knew at the start that they could pay in instalments, they would be more likely to engage with those making the offer.

Mr Gregory said payment options were growing strongly, but he criticised the independent sector for failing to make it easy for consumers to navigate through quite complex offers.

He advised delegates, who attended online and in person, to pay attention to what people’s expectations were of them.

Liz Heath, author of market analyst LaingBuisson’s annual self-pay reports, said it did not  feel as if economic factors were having a significant impact on self-pay, but 2022 figures would show the true scale of demand. 

Evidence to mid-November suggested a self-pay market with a promising growth trajectory that looked sustainable.

And self-pay interest was particularly evident in the younger generations who wanted something immediately and were less allegiant to the insurance route.

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said the impact of cost-of-living increases was a big unknown for the sector, but providers had not seen an effect so far. 

He thought self-pay drivers were likely to persist and 50% of people had indicated they would consider using private healthcare – which was far more than before Covid-19.