Trusts yet to fully re-open PPUs to private patients

PPU Watch

Compiled by Philip Housden

A report in The Observer has examined NHS trusts’ promotion of private healthcare services through PPUs and how the pandemic – and record waiting lists – has led to a review of private services by some trusts.

It highlighted the following five:

1. King’s College Hospital NHS Trust in south London stood down inpatient and outpatient private services during the pandemic to allow the inpatient beds to be used for NHS patients. 

The inpatient service has yet to re-open. King’s reported revenues in 2021-22 of £5.4m, 81% down on the pre-Covid income of £18.9m.

2. Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, where waiting times are among the longest in England, said that its private patient facilities are ‘currently being used for NHS services’. 

The trust accounts show private patient income was £1.8m last year, still only 50% of the £3.6m received in 2019-20.

3. Great Western Hospitals NHS Trust, in Wiltshire’s 20-bed unit the Shalbourne Suite, has not operated a full private patient unit since before Covid.

It has been reported that where the trust does offer private treatment, it is out of hours and where there is capacity in empty out­patient clinics, with NHS patients always receiving ‘priority care’. 

Great Western’s private patient revenues were £1.9m in 2021-22, still only 45% of pre-pandemic income of £4.2m.

4. Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s Candover Clinic had private patient revenues of £5.5m in 2021-22, still 25% lower than two years previously. 

5. At Kingston Private Health, the private unit at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust in south-west London, the trust scaled back private activity in winter and used the space to relieve pressure on the NHS. 


Kingston reported private patient income of £2.2m in 2021-22, a 23% decline from £2.8m in 2019-20.

Overall, private patient income from NHS trusts in 2021-22 was £544m, a substantial decline of £131m and 19.4% lower than the pre-pandemic income of £675m in 2019-20. 

This represents only 0.65% of total NHS trusts’ incomes, well below the pre-pandemic high of 1.10% in 2018-19.

All of this shows the relative lack of private patient mixed-model provision across England at a time when the NHS is under financial strain.

The NHS could do with – at the very least – accessing the benefits of charging insurance companies for the high complex treatment and care received by their members but as NHS patients and without charge.

This missing income is estimated at anything up to £1bn a year.

ISCAS/PPU update and progress

The Independent Sector Comp­laints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) reports that the University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust and the Royal National Ortho­paedic Hospital NHS Trust have agreed to participate in NHS PPU pilot studies. 

The Government has demanded these pilots in its response to the independent inquiry report into issues raised by former surgeon Ian Paterson. This involves:

 The complaints procedure in both PPUs being agreed with the Patient Advisory Liaison service (PALs); 

 Both PPUs ensuring their consultants with practising privileges are aware of the Medical Pract­itioners Assurance Frame­work (MPAF) and that it is being used;

 The private patients’ policy in both PPUs being reviewed. 

At the Private Healthcare Inform­ation Network (PHIN) annual general meeting, there were offers of help for signposting to ISCAS and ensuring private patients being treated in NHS PPUs are aware of the service it provides.

MP puts forward Early Day Motion to limit NHS private patient services

Labour MP Margaret Greenwood has put forward an Early Day Motion (EDM 805) calling on the Government to put an end to NHS facilities being used to provide services to private patients.

She referenced the provision in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 for NHS foundation trust hospitals to make up to 49% of their money out of treating private patients. 

As I write this, the motion has 29 signatories.

Philip Housden is director of Housden Group