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Analysis: NHS shoulders the burden, despite government steering towards private sector

In the face of rising waiting lists government policy has aimed to increase the role of the independent sector in tackling these record delays, but as a Lowdown analysis of recent figures confirms the NHS is still shouldering the vast majority of the task.

Key points

  • The number of NHS hospital admissions handled by the independent sector has risen by 28% in the last year to over 800,000, but this is overshadowed by the 15.6 million admissions into NHS hospitals.
  • Overall though, the share of total admissions treated by the independent sector has risen to 5%, from around 4% in 2021/22.
  • The NHS continues to handle virtually all emergency admissions – 6,054,000  in the last year (2022/23).
  • Of the nearly 90 million outpatients attendances in 2022/3 the NHS handled just over 94%. The proportion treated by non NHS providers rose by less than 0.5%
  • In the short term, private hospitals have a very limited scope to tackle the scale of the NHS waiting lists, due to limited beds, profit targets and a reliance on NHS consultants to deliver their work. A longer term policy to expand the outsourcing of NHS clinical work to the independent sector comes with considerable impacts upon the NHS and patients.

Full report in The Lowdown, 6 October 2023

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