Covid Scotland: Two-thirds increase in Scots paying for private healthcare during pandemic

The number of Scots paying for private healthcare has increased by two-thirds during the pandemic, new figures show.

Some 4,700 Scots paid for their own healthcare in Scotland between July and September last year, compared to 2,800 in the same period in 2019, according to the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN).

PHIN, which is appointed by the Competition and Markets Authority to gather data on private healthcare in the UK, said consultants were now beginning to treat more private patients after moving to support the NHS during the pandemic.

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A YouGov poll commissioned by PHIN in mid-March showed almost a quarter (22 per cent) of people in Scotland said the pandemic had made them more likely to consider using private healthcare.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf launched the NHS recovery plan during a visit to the new national Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD) at the Golden Jubilee Hospital. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

This was a 2 per cent increase on results from the same question asked in August 2021. Ten per cent of people said they were less likely to consider private healthcare.

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Ten per cent of respondents said they had used private healthcare services during the pandemic. Of those, 58 per cent said that pre-pandemic they would have opted to use NHS services for the type of care they received.

Matt James, PHIN chief executive, said: “Our data shows that a greater number of people in Scotland opting to go private are paying out of their own pocket to do so.

“PHIN’s role is to help people make sure they are fully informed, so they make the choices that are right for them and avoid any nasty surprises. This is especially important for anybody who is new to private healthcare and paying themselves, as they do not have an insurer to help them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the pandemic has seen the NHS under the most severe pressure in its 73-year existence, which has led to backlogs of treatment.

They added: “Our NHS Scotland Recovery Plan, backed by more than £1 billion of funding, will support an increase in-inpatient, day-case and outpatient activity to address backlogs. Key actions include investment of more than £400m to create a network of National Treatment Centres across Scotland which will significantly increase capacity to deliver elective care, including cataracts and orthopaedics.

“The PHIN figures show Scotland has lower rates of self-pay admissions per head of population than England and Wales.”

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