Private hospitals completed more than 3.2 million procedures for the NHS since the agreement to help during the Covid-19 pandemic was initiated and will continue to be vital to clear backlogs.
And the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) believes private treatment capacity has almost fully returned with several hospitals now running at more than 100%.
Speaking at the LaingBuisson Private Healthcare Summit, PHIN chief executive Matt James revealed the remarkable statistics about the sector’s rebound.
“The data now is starting to show a pick again toward normal private activity and I would expect that to continue,” he said.
“Indeed, a number of hospitals have told us they are operating at more than 100% private capacity which I believe is the beginning of what is probably going to be the pattern for the next couple of years as waiting lists are addressed both through NHS work and private activity.”
Insurers praised for pro-activity
This was echoed by Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) CEO David Hare who noted the scale of the private sector’s support of the NHS so far.
And he also praised the pro-active work of insurers in helping to make the arrangements a success.
“In the final reckoning there will be over 3.2m NHS patients treated in the sector over the course of the time there were varying arrangements in place,” he said.
“A lot of cancer work, particularly urgent cancer work, was continued throughout this period as well and a real sense that activity was pushing through.”
Hare added there were issues about utilisation noting that providers had to be “realistic and honest that in some areas NHS utilisation wasn’t what we would have wanted it to be”.
This he said was somewhat hindered by the fact the NHS measured bed occupancy which “is not a particularly good measure of good utilisation capacity”, while theatre capacity for the period was running at around 90% or so, for private and NHS activity.
But he expects the private sector will need to be integral to NHS recovery, although while there is a framework in place, it has been a slightly slow start by NHS in using capacity.
“I think we’re all aware that self-pay demand is growing quite materially and what we’re seeing coming out of the private insured market is flowing through in terms of those backlogs and holding up pretty well,” he continued.
“I think one of the challenges for the sector over the few months or year will be balancing those demand pressures particularly as the NHS demand begins to pick up.”