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Record rise in people using private healthcare amid NHS frustration

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Record numbers of people are paying for private healthcare, spending up to £3,200 on having a cataract removed and £15,075 on a new hip, amid growing frustration at NHS waiting lists.Across the UK last year 272,000 people used their own funds to cover the cost of having an operation or diagnostic procedure at a private hospital.

That was up from 262,000 the year before and a sharp rise on the 199,000 who did so in 2019, the year before the Covid pandemic struck.Private hospitals also set another record during 2022 by treating 820,000 inpatients and day case patients overall – more than in any previous year, according to figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), a specialist data collection organisation that tracks activity in the sector.Besides the 272,000 who paid themselves, the other 547,000 had their treatment using a private medical insurance policy – the highest number since 2019.The data prompted speculation that the NHS’s inability to meet waiting time targets could make paying for private healthcare “a new normal” in Britain, despite state-funded care being free.Ian Gargan, PHIN’s chief executive, said “long NHS waiting lists and uncertainty around how long you’ll be waiting” were driving the surge in private healthcare. “For some people, paying for their own treatment is more cost-effective than not being able to work while they await a new knee or hip replacement, for instance.”The top five most common procedures private hospitals carried out last year were cataract surgery (76,000), chemotherapy (66,000), an upper gastrointestinal diagnostic test (38,000), colonoscopy to test for bowel cancer (31,000) and a new hip (30,000).The figures do not include NHS patients who had private hospital

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