Launched in 2022, the Broadstone Insurance Gap Index tracks the relative changes in self-pay and insured private medical treatments alongside NHS waiting lists since 2019.
Analysis of PHIN data(1) on private medical treatment from leading independent consultancy Broadstone reveals a narrowing “insurance gap” as insured admissions accelerate, reflecting growing demand from businesses to invest in the health of their employees amid the crisis in the NHS.
In Q4 2022 the number of insured admissions rose to 140,000 – the highest volume since before the pandemic at 95% of 2019 levels. Insured admissions are now accelerating at a far quicker rate than self-pay admissions which plateaued at 66,000 admissions in Q4 2022.
This is still substantially higher than pre-pandemic (132% of the 50,000 admissions in Q1 2019) as difficulties accessing treatment via the NHS and savings accumulated over the past few years of restrictions drive more people to fund their own treatment.
However, the stabilisation in self-pay numbers suggest growth in the private health sector is now increasingly being driven by businesses investing in private healthcare options like Private Medical Insurance to ensure the health and wellbeing of their colleagues.
The record numbers of people using the private sector to meet their healthcare needs comes amid a growing crisis in the NHS. 7.20 million people were waiting for treatment at the end of 2022 – 170% higher than Q1 2019 – and this has swollen even further to 7.33 million at the end of the first quarter in 2023.(2)
Commenting on the most recent Insurance Gap Index, Brett Hill – Head of Health & Protection at Broadstone, said:
“It is no surprise that the problems people are facing in receiving treatment from the NHS are feeding into growing demand for private healthcare with private sector admissions reaching record levels in 2022. But we are now starting to see evidence of a transition in how that care is funded.
“In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, we saw a surge in self-pay admissions as people used savings they had built up through the lockdowns to accelerate appointments, diagnoses and treatments. That increase in self-pay now looks to have flattened.
“In its place, with the public health service facing ever-increasing pressures, insured admissions are now accelerating and approaching all-time highs. This is because businesses are recognising the need to invest in the wellbeing of their staff to stem the surge of economic inactivity due to ill-health that we are seeing.
“In practise, this means businesses are implementing or expanding employee PMI schemes so that more of their staff have the ability to access the private sector to receive quicker, affordable care. As these trends continue to feed through into the data, and with the pressures facing the NHS unlikely to ease in the near-term, we expect the Insurance Gap to continue narrowing further over the coming year.”