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The Mail on Sunday - 2021-10-10

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Record number pay for ops to beat backlog

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RECORD numbers of patients are paying for their own operations because of the NHS waiting list ‘crisis’. One private hospital chain has seen the number of ‘self-pay’ patients for hip operations more than double since Covid began. Spire, which has 40 sites, told in a recent note to investors of ‘record self-pay performance’, adding: ‘NHS waiting list continues to rise, supporting growth in self-pay [revenues].’ Rival HCA Healthcare has seen a 25 per cent increase in self-pay orthopaedic patients and similar rises in those requiring cardiac and brain surgery. Retired dental nurse Christine Worrall, 71, took out an £18,000 loan for a knee op at Spire Manchester last month after being told she faced at least an 18-month wait on the NHS. ‘I was just in so much pain,’ she said. A record 5.6million people in England are on an NHS waiting list, with the backlog expected to grow. Labour’s Health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘More and more hard-pressed working people are now forced to take out loans, or even crowd-fund online, to pay thousands for operations simply because waiting times have become so unbearable. This is a crisis.’ New Victoria Hospital, in Kingston, SouthWest London, has seen self-pay in-patients rise by two-thirds since 2019. Giles Heilpern, a knee and shoulder surgeon, said they now made up 40 per cent of his private practice there, ‘almost double’ the proportion pre-pandemic. A Department for Health spokesman said: ‘Our record investment is helping to tackle the backlog in the NHS, including £2billion this year and £8billion over the next three years.’

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