March of the NIPs

Published: Thursday, 20 March 2014 12:53

First seen in Independent Practitioner Today

Record growth in 'New independent practitioners' will stiffen competition

Competition among consultants is set to intensify as thousands of new entrants into private practice build up their businesses.

Private healthcare analysts have revealed the number of ‘NIPs’ – new independent practitioners – has never been higher.

Over 3,700 doctors have launched a private practice in the UK since 2011 – and numbers are still growing as younger specialists seek to boost stagnant NHS incomes and take on new challenges.

‘NIPs’ numbers have shot up by 60% in just 36 months, rising from 1,008 in 2010 to 1,612 last year.

 Figures collated for Independent Practitioner Today by independent sector online solutions experts Healthcode show a typical practitioner entering private practice is a male anaesthetist who joined the specialty register eight years ago.

But while most popular spec­ialties among the new cohort broadly reflect the GMC’s register, women remain significantly under-represented.

Healthcode’s managing director Peter Connor warned that the sheer numbers now taking on private work signalled that competition in the sector would become more intense in the coming years.

He said: ‘We have certainly seen the highest rate of increase over the last recent years. A reason, which may help explain the recent trend, could be the NHS Any Qual­ified Provider (AQP) commissioning programme, which as a consequence has encouraged more providers to enter private practice.’

As the clearing house for online billing, his company processes around 15,000 transactions daily and its analysis is based on an extensive database of private hospitals and consultants.  

The figures broadly reflect the GMC’s latest registration statistics, where anaesthetists represent 11.67% of doctors on the specialist register. The number of anaesthetists entering independent practice rose from 90 in 2011 to 254 in 2013.

Clinical radiology also saw a significant increase, from 44 new ind­ependent consultants in 2011 – the seventh most common specialty – to 136 in 2013 when they were second in that year’s top ten.

Other areas of clinical practice that are traditionally strong within the private health sector are trauma and orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology and dermatology. But in the three years since 2011, the percentage of new orthopaedic and trauma specialists in each year fell slightly from 11% in 2011 to 8% in 2013.

According to Healthcode's analysis, over 60% of the 3,741 consultants entering private practice in the last three years were from the following:
1 Anaesthesia (13%) 6 Obestetrics & gynaecology (5%)
2 Trauma & orthopaedic surgery (10%) 7 Ophthalmology (5%)
3 General surgery (9%) 8 Urology (3%)
4 Clinical radiology (6%) 9 Paediatrics (3%)
5 Cardiology (6%) 10 Dermatology (3%)