Hospitals ramp up medical services for private patients

Private healthcare
Private hospitals in the UK are reducing the capacity reserved for the National Health Service (NHS) and are expanding services for private patients. It is not business as usual yet, though.

On the 21st of March 2020, as part of the governments’ effort to manage the pandemic, the private healthcare sector signed an agreement to provide full support to the NHS until the end of June 2020. This agreement reserved the majority of private sector capacity/services for NHS patients.

Effective 7th of September, NHS England has removed its capacity requirements from central London independent private providers and has reduced the required capacity elsewhere in the country to a level just above pre-Covid levels. At the same time, the private sector has increased capacity for private patients by having earlier/later opening times and utilising weekends. 

The medical services offering has increased in recent weeks to a point where some hospitals can provide a full range of options, but processes are still likely to take longer to perform.

•    In most cases, the first point of call is likely to be a remote consultation with a specialist following a GP referral.
•    Additional pre and post-operative precautions are in place for hospitals and clinics such as self-isolating for 14 days pre and 7 days post surgery.
•    Stringent hygiene and social distancing requirements mean a reduced number of consultations/operations per day.
•    Healthcare providers are developing measures that may shorten isolation periods prior to treatment for all but the most vulnerable patients and most complex procedures. 
•    Some healthcare providers are piloting new technology which could increase capacity for rapid Covid testing results in 90 minutes. 

From the initial point of a resumption of services, albeit on a limited capacity, the private healthcare sector has seen referrals significantly increase since July with some believing that numbers will be back to or exceed pre Covid levels by the end of the year.  Although an important upward trend, this should not detract from the fact that there is a concern amongst the medical profession that due to Covid anxiety, a significant number of those needing treatment are not seeking it.

With the introduction and use of technology in the assessment and consultation process, plus the stringent safety protocols that have been put in place, both the NHS and private providers hope to alleviate these concerns so that those who need the services the most feel confident enough to use them.

Expected commercial healthcare claims trend by AXA in the UK

AXA Private Medical Care Expectations


What will the next few months bring?

The continued increase in services will depend ultimately on the impact any new spike in Covid cases has on the health system in the UK. With the expectation from the private healthcare providers that services should be close to pre Covid levels over the coming months, employers with PMI cover should ensure that they have the appropriate position from their respective providers and are able to share this with their employees.

The Lockton Benefit team is in continued dialog with the private healthcare providers. Please contact your usual Lockton consultant should you require any additional information .

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