Gut Investigations Most Common Hospital Procedures Says Healthcode

Published: Wednesday, 13 May 2015 12:16

Clinical codingGastrointestinal endoscopies and biopsies were the most common procedures carried out on insured patients in UK private hospitals during 2014, according to Healthcode, the official clearing company for the private healthcare sector.


Healthcode revealed private hospitals billed for more than 827,000 procedures on admitted patients last year, including more than 70,800 diagnostic colonoscopies and gastroscopies (over 8% of the total) which are used to check for signs of cancer. Healthcode also noted from the procedure codes that these investigations were increasingly carried out during the same patient visit to minimise inconvenience and distress to the patient. Use of the code which designates consecutive gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedures nearly doubled in 2014.

A traditional strength for the private health sector, procedures for patients with musculoskeletal problems were also common, including injections and knee arthroscopies.

The top five procedure codes invoiced by private hospitals in 2014 were:

 Definition  % of total procedures
 1. Diagnostic colonoscopy (includes forceps biopsy of colon and ileum)  4%
 2. Diagnostic oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy (includes including forceps biopsy urease test and dye spray)  3.6%
 3. One or two injections +/- aspiration, into joint (s), cyst, bursa or soft tissue, with image guidance  3.6%
 4. Diagnostic endoscopic examination of bladder including any biopsy 2.5%
 5. Arthroscopic operation on knee 2.5%


Healthcode’s findings highlight the role played by the private sector in confirming or excluding a diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancer. Earlier this year, a national campaign to raise public awareness of oesophago-gastric cancers led by Public Health England commented that around 6,900 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and 6,000 with stomach cancer each year in England and stressed the importance of early diagnosis – around 67% of people diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancers at the earliest stage survive for at least five years but this fell to just 3% for those diagnosed at a late stage. Meanwhile bowel cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in the country with 41,600 new cases in 2011, according to Cancer Research UK. The Charity says that bowel cancer incidence rates have increased by 6% over the last decade but death rates have fallen by 14% in the last decade largely thanks to screening and earlier diagnosis.

Healthcode Managing Director, Peter Connor commented on the data: “As you might expect, this analysis of procedures reflects a traditional strength of the private health sector: treating patients with painful joints and other musculoskeletal problems. However, it also highlights the thousands of investigative procedures carried out in private hospitals each year which put patients’ minds at rest or help ensure they receive the early diagnosis and treatment that can make such a difference.

“Healthcode has long championed the use of accurate coding procedures because they enable hospitals and insurers to analyse demand and allocate resources appropriately. But in this instance, it allows us to demonstrate the important contribution made by the private sector to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases in the UK.”


Be clear on cancer: Oesophago-gastric campaign, PR toolkit, Public Health England, January 2015

Bowel caner - key stats, Cancer Research UK, November 2014