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Private pay: Rising – but not as fast as you think


Data from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) shows the self-pay bubble in the UK seems to have reached its peak. While private pay admissions are still rising across the country, self-pay is out while private medical insurance (PMI) is in.

The data from PHIN’s quarterly private market update shows in most English regions in the number of self-pay admissions declined YoY in Q1 2023, including in London which is the engine room for UK private care. London and the south east made up 42% of self-pay admissions.

This is not to say private pay declined entirely. London and the south east made up 59% of all PMI-funded admissions in Q1 2023. Adding the wealthy east of England to the equation, and the percentages of admissions rise to 71% for PMI and 54% for self-pay. The better paid you are the more likely you are to get PMI perks.

Self-pay inpatient and day care cases are up from 50,000 a quarter pre-Covid to 70,000 a quarter post-Covid for the UK . That is a 40% rise, but despite long NHS queues, the 70,000 number has plateaued at around that level for the two years to the second quarter of 2023. Compare that to pre- and post-Covid levels of PMI funded care – this has risen 18% to 227,000 cases a quarter. And it is on a rising trajectory as more employers pay to cover staff. In the last year PMI cases have risen 9%.

PHIN also reveals that there are 9,000 consultants (a British term for senior physicians) practicing in the private sector in any given month. That includes around 2,000 people who only work in the private sector. So out of the 63,000 NHS consultants in the UK only 7,000 or 11% work privately as well.

Note that PHIN currently only tracks inpatient and day cases, where the patient has to rest for a period of time after the procedure, so it doesn’t track shorter outpatient procedures at the moment. But with that caveat these are likely to be very accurate statistics. “We think the providers we get data from account for 98.9% of the market” a spokesperson tells HBI.


We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.