Private healthcare activity in January and February was down significantly from the same months last year, according to data from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN).
The PHIN noted that it had not yet seen an increase in demand for private healthcare as a result of the vast NHS waiting list which had grown substantially since the pandemic hit.
“There will be a range of reasons for this and it doesn’t mean that private care won’t experience a bounce, but we aren’t seeing that yet,” it said.
Its figures show the sector’s recovery which had gathered pace in the final four months of 2020, reversed at the start of the year.
Just 44,000 episodes of care were completed in January and a further 47,000 in February, compared with 68,000 and 63,000 in the same months in 2020 before the pandemic hit.
These figures were 32% and 23% down from the year before, while the December figure of 49,000 cases was just 6% below its 2019 comparison.
September, October and November had seen activity just 14%, 8% and 10% respectively down on the previous year as the sector returned to near-normal in the final three months of 2020.
In April and May of 2020 treatment had been 81% down from previous levels.
‘Stagnation of private elective treatment’
PHIN chief medical officer Dr Jon Fistein said: “While the signs at the end of last year pointed towards a potential recovery of private healthcare, the rise in hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients at the beginning of the year, along with the nationwide lockdown, seems to have led to a stagnation of private elective treatment.
“As we start to open up, we may start to see the longer-term impact on NHS waiting lists and private care. We will continue to monitor this from the unique data we hold on private admissions across the UK.”
Changes in market share were less dramatic at the beginning of 2021 compared to the first national lockdown in March and April 2020.
During that period medical oncology grew to 43% of all private activity but in January and February it rose just 2% to 14% of all private activity.