More insured patients were treated by independent hospitals during the first three months of 2022, compared with the same period before the pandemic, according to new billing activity data from Healthcode.
The official clearing organisation for private medical invoices has been publishing its analyses of hospital billing volumes over the course of the pandemic as a measure of market activity. It recorded a rise in the number of unique patients in billing data to 133% of 2019 levels for outpatients and 103% for admitted patients in March 2022.
Overall, insured activity exceeded 2019 levels across all regions and medical specialities in the first Quarter of 2022, reflecting the extent of the turnaround in the sector, since the low in May 2020.
Healthcode Managing Director, Peter Connor, commented: “Two years after lockdown was first imposed, Healthcode’s latest data shows that independent hospitals are back to doing what they do best: providing high quality care for patients in need across the UK and relieving the pressure on the healthcare system. Healthcode operates at the heart of the independent healthcare sector and it has been impressive to see everyone pull together to help the national effort during the pandemic. With demand for other medical investigations and treatments now growing rapidly, we know their contribution will be important in the years ahead.”
Here are the headlines from Q1 2022:
Countries and regions
Hospital billing activity surged ahead of 2019 across all UK countries, particularly in England and Wales which didn’t dip below pre-pandemic levels at any point in Q1. In March, volumes were at an all-time high: England (131%); Scotland (119%); Wales (122%) and Northern Ireland (158%)
Across the English regions, activity largely exceeded 2019 levels with London, the North West, East England and the West Midlands recording high volumes throughout Q1. January was quieter in East Midlands, North East, South East, South West and Yorkshire and the Humber but levels had bounced back by March, exceeding 2019 by more than 20 percentage points. Yorkshire and the Humber saw the biggest turnaround, from 94% of 2019 levels in January to 141% in March.
Top ten hospital specialties
Activity levels rose above 2019 in all but one of the top hospital specialties. Both pathology/haematology and radiology recorded more than double 2019 volumes in March 2022 (211% and 202% respectively).
Orthopaedics and trauma is still the number one hospital specialty in terms of billing activity and exceeded its 2019 performance in February (111%) and March (123%). The Q1 activity levels suggest the specialty has effectively recovered from the adverse effects of the pandemic.
Within hospital settings, outpatient activity was quicker to recover after lockdown measures were relaxed and activity has been consistently higher than 2019 levels for some time. Meanwhile, admitted care activity has been edging closer to pre-pandemic levels and by March 2022, it was 5% higher than in the same month of 2019.