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Rise in self-pay patients hoping to skip long NHS referral queues

Published on 07/12/2011

Thousands of patients without private medical insurance have to pay for private operations because of tough restrictions on GP referrals, a new survey reveals.

GP newspaper Pulse contacted four private healthcare companies, and found that the number of self-pay patients is increasing rapidly. Industry-wide figures suggest that now, on average, 150,000 patients each year pay for their operations.

Companies are seeing a large increase in private procedures like knee replacement surgery

Spire Healthcare saw a ten per cent year on year increase in the number of self-pay ‘clinically necessary’ procedures it carried out in October, and enquiries about self-pay procedures rose by 33 per cent between August and November.

Nuffield Health, owner of 30 private hospitals, has also seen a big increase in self-pay treatments this year, particularly for orthopaedics. BMI Healthcare has also seen a ‘continued and steady’ rise. At Ramsey Healthcare, self-pay cases have risen by 5 per cent in the last six months.

This trend echoes Department of Health figures, which show that GPs referred 120,293 fewer patients for NHS procedures between July and September compared with the same period last year, a 4 per cent drop. Outpatient appointments also fell by almost 100,000 to 4.3 million.

There are fears that struggling NHS trusts are putting pressure on GPs to delay referrals, and limiting availability for certain procedures on the NHS, like hip and knee replacements.Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter, clinical services director at Spire Healthcare, said:

‘The increase in enquiries about private treatment is largely the result of changes we’re seeing in the healthcare system. NHS funding can only stretch so far.’

Without medical insurance, paying for a hip replacement privately in the UK can cost as much as £10,000. An average health insurance premium for a 65 year old is around £70 a month, totalling only £840 a year, perhaps lower with a discount scheme.

People with private medical insurance will receive that hip replacement without extra cost, in a private hospital of their choice, with a consultant of their choice. They will also skip the NHS waiting lists, lowering their chance of complications.

Compare health insurance quotes online now to avoid the NHS waiting lists for essential operations, and avoid the high cost of self-pay private treatment.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2011

Categories:  NHS and Hospitals
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