East of England sees private healthcare usage rise 36% in two years

Hospital ward

Experts believe it to be a sign of desperation with people being asked to wait too long for the treatment they need - Credit: PA

The East of England witnessed a 36% increase in the number of private healthcare admissions between 2019 and 2021.

It is believed much of the surge is the result of long NHS wait times.

According to figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), self-paying appointments for operations such as cataract surgery, hip replacements and knee replacements grew significantly across the region.

Hip replacement procedures, which can cost over £15,000, saw a 215% increase between 2019 and 2021.

These figures only include patients who covered the full cost of private treatment themselves and not those with private insurance.

NHS logo

Experts believe it to be a sign of desperation with people being asked to wait too long for the NHS treatment they need - Credit: National Health Service

The news comes as the country sees a nationwide increase in the number of patients switching to private healthcare.

Experts believe it to be a sign of desperation with people being asked to wait too long for the treatment they need.

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Last month, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which oversees both Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, saw 996 patients waiting 52 weeks or more for general surgery. 

The NHS target currently stands at 18 weeks. 

Ipswich Hospital sign

ESNEFT, which oversees both Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, saw 996 patients waiting 52 weeks or more for general surgery - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

West Suffolk Hospital, who saw almost 7,000 less patients than ESNEFT, saw 304 patients wait 52 weeks or more.

Across the UK, a total of 69,000 self-funded treatments were carried out in the final three months of last year. 

This equals a 39% rise during the same period before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Louise Ansari, national director at Healthwatch England, said: "For more than two-thirds of people, going private simply isn’t an option and, with the rising cost of living crisis, the gap between these groups is only likely to grow.

“Our evidence also shows that people on the lowest incomes are the most likely to wait the longest for NHS treatment and will have a more negative experience of waiting.

“In turn, this leads to a worse impact on their physical health, mental health and their ability to work and care for loved ones.

“Tackling the NHS backlog is a huge challenge but decision makers must find a way to do so without exacerbating health inequalities, the extent of which has been laid bare by the pandemic.”

Have you gone private recently? Get in touch to tell us your story at william.warnes@archant.co.uk.