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NHS waiting times would rise by over 50 per cent without the independent sector new IHPN analysis shows

Date of publication: 13th Nov 2019

Categories: Latest news

Analysis undertaken by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network has found that removing independent sector hospital capacity from the NHS would have a significant negative impact on patients’ ability to access timely care, with waiting times rising by over 50 per cent to an average of just under six months (22.2 weeks). The equivalent of over 40 additional NHS Trusts would need to be built to replace lost capacity in certain specialties. The new figures are based on analysing official data published by NHS Digital.

Independent healthcare providers currently deliver over 436,000 NHS elective procedures every year. This includes vital hip and knee replacements and cataracts procedures – all free at the point of use and paid for at NHS tariff prices. This represents 11.2% of NHS admitted elective care and is equivalent to all the elective care delivered annually in London.

IHPN’s analysis has found that without independent hospital providers:

  • After 1 year, the average wait for all NHS elective treatment would rise from 13.1 weeks to 22.2 weeks – an increase of around 70%. Over 400,000 more people would be added to the waiting list.
  • After 3 years, the average wait for all NHS elective treatment would rise to 40.3 weeks. Over 1.3m would be added to the NHS waiting list.

NHS Trauma and Orthopaedic care is the most common specialty delivered by independent hospitals to NHS patients. In Trauma and Orthopaedics:

  • the equivalent of an additional 42 NHS trusts would need to be built to make up for the lost capacity that is currently provided by independent sector providers.
  • the waiting list would treble within 3 years from 568,993 to 1,652,785. Average waiting times across all CCGs in the country would rise from 16.6 weeks to a staggering 93 weeks after 3 years.

Responding to the figures, David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network said:

“These figures demonstrate the vital role independent sector providers play in delivering NHS care and paint a bleak picture of where NHS patients would be without the investment and capacity that they bring.

“The argument that the NHS is being ‘privatised’ is as old as the hills but the reality is that the NHS has always blended public and private sector provision and what matters to patients is that it is high quality and free at the point of use. Independent sector provision is an important part of the free, tax-funded NHS and today’s figures make clear what the impact would be on NHS waits if those providers were to be cut out.”


  • A full note on the methodology for this analysis can be found here
  • Full figures broken down by CCG can be found here