Health therapies are on the rise

Private healthcare summit 2023.

By Robin Stride

Evidence of the growing use of health therapies in the treatment of private patients has been revealed by IT solutions company Healthcode.

Among the top ten claims by specialty for treatments outside of hospital in the six months to 31 March 2023, three were performed by non-GMC registered practitioners.

The running order was: 

  • Physiotherapy 15.2%; 
  • Orthopaedics/trauma 14.7%;
  • General medicine 12.4%; 
  • Obstetrics/gynaecology 7.3%,
  • Psychotherapy 6.6%; 
  • General surgery 5.2%; 
  • Dermatology 4.5%; 
  • Psychology 4.1%; 
  • Anaesthesia 3.4%;
  • Urology 3.2%.

Fiona Booth

According to the company’s head of external affairs, Fiona Booth, this illustrates the importance of health therapies, delivered outside a hospital setting, to help with issues like rehabilitation, muscular pain, mental health, diet and so on.

She told private healthcare bosses at LaingBuisson’s Indepen­dent Healthcare Summit: ‘Not all these services are available or readily accessible on the NHS, but they can transform the lives of patients – so to what extent do we want to promote this as an additional benefit? That’s a question for you to consider.’

Looking at claims volume originating from hospitals by specialty, it showed orthopaedics and trauma top – as usual – at 62,000 in March 2023, which was 24% higher than the same month in 2022.

Orthopaedic volumes slumped to just 12% of 2019 levels during the first lockdown, but Ms Booth said the specialty had now fully recuperated.

Civica Medical Billing

Growing demand for diagnostic procedures in private hospitals was evident with radiology coming second with 44,000 – a year on year rise of 21% – and pathology/haematology fourth with 26,000 – up 4% on the previous year.

Turning point

The former chief executive of the Association of Independent Health­care Organisations (AIHO) said these figures needed to be seen in the context of a surge in these claims after lockdown restrictions were lifted in the summer of 2020.

‘We need to go right back to August 2020 to find the turning point. That month, there were just over 12,500 pathology/haematology claims, a year-on-year increase of 10%. By December 2020 there were more than 18,000 – a year on year increase of 56% and the numbers have continued to head north ever since.’

Other specialties were: physiotherapy 32,000, general surgery 26,000, obstetrics/ gynaecology 21,000, oncology 18,000, urology 16,000, gastroenterology 15,000, and cardiology 14,000.

Ms Booth said diagnostic tests and imaging had become more sophisticated and their applications had grown, so Healthcode expected their role to grow.

The NHS was trying to increase its diagnostic capacity because it was struggling to meet the demand. 1.6m patients were waiting for a key diagnostic test at the end of February 2023 – up 94,000 from a year earlier.


She also highlighted a YouGov survey showing the median private healthcare spend in the last year was £500 – ‘which suggests that patients were largely turning to providers for less expensive services such as diagnostic procedures to put their mind at rest’.

Ms Booth added: ‘Of course, it will be for private sector providers to consider whether they want to increase their own capacity with regard to diagnostic facilities, equipment and human resources. 

‘However, it has certainly been interesting to read of late about a number of investments by providers in new outpatient and diagnostic centres.’

Waiting lists for NHS treatment were a ‘push factor’ for many people, prompting them to consider private healthcare. But it was equally important for providers to focus on the positive ‘pull factors’ that would attract patients and make it likely they would recommend the experience to friends and family.

‘Healthcare is about achieving the best outcome for patients, but, of course, private healthcare involves going the extra mile to exceed their expectations in terms of service efficiency, quality and value,’ she said.