Record number of patients go private

It’s a record! Unprecedented numbers of patients are turning to consultants with a private practice as NHS waiting lists lengthen.

Latest figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) quarterly data update have been broadly welcomed by independent practitioners and the hospitals where they work.

David Hare

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said: ‘Since the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of patients choosing private healthcare – paying for this either by their own means, or through insurance. 

‘It’s notable to see the strong growth in insurance-based admissions in the most recent quarters, which insurers have also been reporting.

‘The demand for self-pay has increased considerably since the pandemic, having established itself at a much higher level than before – there are around 70,000 admissions every quarter compared to 50,000 in 2019.

PHIN’s clinical adviser Dr Chris Smith-Brown said: ‘Following a record year in 2022, the first three months of 2023 continued the trend and we saw the highest levels of private healthcare admissions, including the highest number of insurance-funded admissions since the PHIN began collecting data.

‘There are a variety of factors influencing the growth in private healthcare admissions, with the long NHS waiting lists, and particularly the uncertainty around how long you’ll be waiting, are key among them.’ 

PHIN reports

Market activity


Figures are rounded to the nearest 1,000. The total may not add, as this is calculated using the actual figure then rounded. Figures for 2022 are higher than previously reported due to the submission of extra data in the intervening period.


Growth in independent healthcare inpatient admissions continues into 2023

In January to March 2023 (Q1), there were 227,000 admissions: the highest total of private admissions since PHIN began collecting data. This was 17,000 more private admissions than in the same quarter in 2022.

The number of admissions paid for with private medical insurance also reached record levels, with 156,000 paid for in this way. There were 18,000 more insured admissions than in the same period in 2022.

Self-pay admissions also increased in Q1 2023 after having fallen slightly in the middle of 2022. They returned to similar levels to the same period in 2022, which had the joint highest ever levels (72,000 in Q2 2021 and Q1 2022).

Private medical insurance inpatient/day-case admissions hit new heights

The high figures for procedures paid for with private medical insurance in Q1 2023, continues the upward trend over the past year and reflects the increased take up reported by insurers.

The number of insured admissions increased in every English region (+13% across England) and in Scotland (+23%) but fell in Northern Ireland (-6%) and Wales (-1%).

Although the total number of self-pay admissions increased again slightly, there was a mixed picture across the UK. There was an increase in each of the devolved nations and three English regions (Yorkshire and The Humber, West Midlands, and North East), but a decrease in the remaining six English regions (South West, South East, North West, London, East of England and East Midlands).

The biggest increase in self-pay admissions came in Wales (+18%).

Admissions by English Region


Admissions by Devolved Nation

Change from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023

The number of admissions increased most between the equivalent periods in 2022 and 2023 in Scotland for the combination of insured and self-pay.

Top 10 procedures by funding method



The number of insured admissions increased for eight out of ten of the most common procedures when comparing Q1 2022 to Q1 2023. Of the two that decreased, cataract admissions was only marginally lower than in Q1 2022.

The largest increase was in ‘Diagnostic Colonoscopy – bowel’ and the biggest decrease was in ‘Therapeutics – chemotherapy’.

Self-pay admissions for the top ten procedures were mostly consistent when comparing Q1 2022 to Q1 2023. The largest change was in cataracts (-2.1K), although it remained the most common self-funded procedure by a clear margin.