Private pay activity continues to rise as providers open up to self-pay and insured patients

Private sector hospital activity continued to bounce back in July as more capacity was made available for the treatment of self-pay and insured patients, according to the latest figures from Healthcode.

The health technology specialist, which processes all independent hospital invoices and 60% of those generated by independent practitioners, said insurer funded activity reached 58% of 2019 levels in July.

Although full recovery remains some way off, the figures show a continued rise in private pay activity since June when levels were at 47% of the corresponding period last year and compare favourably to May when they stood at just 29%.

Insured and self-pay activity in England reached 59% of last year’s levels in July while a strong recovery was recorded in Northern Ireland, where activity rallied to 82% of the same period 2019 compared to just 51% in June. Lower activity levels were reported in Scotland at 44% and Wales at 32%. However, both represent an increase on June’s figures which stood at 31% and 20% respectively.

In England, London and the West Midlands demonstrated the strongest performance, both recording private patient activity at 65% of 2019 levels in July. The East Midlands and North West were close behind at 63% and the remaining English regions, with the exception of Yorkshire and Humber, reached over 50% of their 2019 activity level.  

Oncology remained the specialty with the fastest rebound but at 83% of 2019 levels, activity fell back from the height of 99% recorded in June.

All but three of the top ten specialities passed 50% of 2019 activity levels in July. The exceptions were orthopaedics & trauma (49%), ENT (41%) and physiotherapy (29%). However, this is still an advance on June when the equivalent levels were 25%, 19% and 23% respectively. 

Overall, hospital activity has recovered to 56% of expected activity levels, with the strongest growth in outpatient activity, which returned to 58% of its 2019 figure in July, up from 42% in June.

However, admitted care activity is beginning to gain ground, reaching 46% of 2019 levels in July compared with 32% in June and 21% in May.

Healthcode managing director Peter Connor said: ‘The positive trend in insured activity is reason to be optimistic that the private healthcare sector recovery will build momentum over this quarter after hitting the key halfway point. Millions of tests and routine procedures were cancelled nationally because of the pandemic and there is now a backlog of patients needing to be seen. A strong private sector has a vital role to play in delivering care to insured and self-funded patients and provides a safety valve for the NHS when capacity is under strain.’