Skip to content
Please donate

More people branching out from NHS

Published on 19 November 2012 11:30 AM

A study into the repercussions of changes made to the NHS by the last Labour government has shown that the amount of people being treated by the health service has dropped, while more patients have been referred to private services.


The research was conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and funded by the Nuffield Trust to find out how the changes to the NHS made several years ago have changed people's experiences of healthcare.

The investigation discovered that two years ago, most people were being treated at their local NHS provider, but in recent years more and more GPs have been referring patients to alternative services. 

Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs), independent centres which accept NHS patients, had increased their activity, from playing an 'insignificant' role in NHS care to representing 3.5% of all initial consultations in 2010/11, which adds up to nearly half a million appointments over 12 months.

The statistics suggest that, while the total number of all NHS patients has gone up during the past six years, there has been a significant rise in the number of NHS patients treated at private surgeries. 

Rise of private sector healthcare

More and more patients visited ISTCs for a variety of surgical treatments, with ISTCs accounting for about 50% of GP referrals during the last six years.

NHS hospital hip replacements dropped from almost 70% in 2005/06 to over 50% in 2010/11, with independent centres carrying out more of the operations.

Elaine Kelly, a research economist at IFS and one of the authors of the study, said: 'The use of private providers to treat NHS patients is no longer a marginal policy reform and deserves greater investigation.

'There has been a significant shift in market shares over the past five years from patients' nearest NHS hospitals to private providers.

'For some procedures, almost one in five NHS-funded operations are now carried out by the private sector.'

Use of independent services varied according to the treatment needed, with elective unilateral inguinal hernia repair experiencing the quickest shift - 17% of all patients were treated by private services last year.

Casualty services continued to be provided by NHS trusts, with little change in patient care.

Likewise, there was little increase in the number of patients that were treated in an an NHS hospital that was not their local one.

Copyright Press Association 2012


Share this page

Last updated: Dec 05 2018

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top