The Coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc across the healthcare sector. As hospitals were required to focus on COVID patients, millions of non-emergency operations were cancelled or put on hold.
Patients who were scheduled for elective – although often much-needed – procedures such as hip and knee replacements have been particularly affected with delays and cancellations. This has led to many arthritis sufferers seeking private surgery. Here, we’ll discuss the rise in the self-pay market during the pandemic.
Patients face a wait of up to two years for procedures
One of the main driving factors behind the rise in the self-pay market has been the significant delays patients face for procedures. As the NHS has had to focus on dealing with the COVID crisis, non-urgent operations have had to be put on hold. In some cases, patients have even been told that their procedures cannot be carried out for another two years.
Patients who are waiting for joint replacement procedures typically live in pain with significant restricted mobility. The prospect of waiting another two years surgery can therefore be devastating. This is one of the main reasons why patients are choosing to head down the self-pay route.
Private hospitals are considered safer during the pandemic
Another reason COVID is driving an increase in private care, is because it is perceived as a safer option. Private hospitals treat a smaller number of patients and are not admitting emergency patients. It is much easier to establish COVID free pathways and having mainly private rooms mean that they are better able to keep people socially distanced than in an acute NHS hospital, who are likely to be looking after COVID patients.
Understandably patients are concerned about going to hospital during the pandemic, worrying that they are at risk of COVID-19 due to potential exposure to other patients. Booking the procedure privately is seen as a safer option.
Fears over second lockdown
It is looking increasingly likely that there will be a second national lockdown. The first lockdown obviously caused a significant backlog. So, if a second lockdown is introduced, it could once again lengthen the time patients need to wait to receive their treatment. So, to avoid having their hip replacements delayed once again, patients are turning to self-pay options.
Due to widespread NHS rationing of treatments and record long waiting lists, the self-pay market was soaring prior to the Coronavirus crisis and had seen a doubling of growth between 2014 and 2018 to £1.1bn. At the beginning of the year, market analysts LaingBuisson forecasted that this would continue to grow to £1.3bn by 2021. These figures will need to be readjusted to account for a global pandemic, however it feels safe to say that self-pay hip and knee replacements will only become a more attractive option in the future.