The independent healthcare sector saw a slight fall in year-on-year insured activity last month, after recording strong growth since May 2020. Healthcode, the official clearing organisation for private medical bills in the UK, revealed that providers were operating at 88% of 2019 levels in October 2020, compared with 93% in September.
Healthcode has been analysing billing data since lockdown restrictions were first eased to track the progress of recovery across the sector and highlight variations between different areas and specialities. After a surge in September when operating levels in parts of the independent healthcare sector were higher than in 2019, year-on-year activity levels across the sector were lower in October. Healthcode said it would continue to monitor the situation in November to assess the impact of the latest lockdown.
Managing Director, Peter Connor, commented: “It’s too early to say whether this is a blip or the recovery has plateaued but the overall story of the second half of 2020 has been one of recovery. We can also be confident that the sector is in a much better place than when the pandemic first hit, largely thanks to the resilience and adaptability of providers who have switched to remote consultations and implemented COVID-secure measures so patients can continue to access support and treatment. Although the latest lockdown is likely to constrain independent healthcare, there are still reasons to be optimistic thanks to the underlying strengths of the sector and the prospect of a vaccine.”
Here are the main headlines from October:
Countries and regions
- Operating percentages in October compared with 2019 were down slightly in most UK countries. England recorded 88% of 2019 level (compared with 93% in September); Northern Ireland achieved 87% (114% in September) and Wales reached 69% (71% in September). Scotland was the exception, achieving 88% of 2019 activity levels (84% in September);
- Regionally, The West Midlands saw a rise in activity (91% of 2019 activity, up from 88% in September) while the East of England (87%) and Yorkshire (82%) were unchanged. Others fell back slightly, including London although providers in the capital still managed 90% of last year’s activity (compared with 99% in September). Aside from the North East (74%), operating percentages remained above 80% of 2019 levels in the other English regions.
- General surgery (103%), radiology (110%) and pathology/haematology (123%) continued to outperform 2019 levels of activity while gastroenterology achieved 100% for the first time from a low of 13% in May. Physiotherapy saw activity recover to 72% of 2019 levels compared with 65% in September and urology was up by one percentage point (92% compared with 91%).
- Orthopaedics and oncology fell back slightly (84% and 89% of 2019 activity, compared with 91% and 112% in September). However, activity in the top ten specialities was over 70% of 2019 levels.
- Hospital activity in October was at 90% of 2019 levels, compared with 95% in September. Within hospital settings, outpatient activity was down slightly to 93% of 2019 levels while admitted care was at 79%. This compares with 98% for outpatient care and 84% for admitted care last month.
- The number of insured out-patients recorded in October was 93% of those treated during the same month of 2019, while the number of in-patients was 81% (the equivalent figures in September were 95% and 82% respectively).