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The number of people paying for elective surgeries and similar treatments in the UK has risen 39 per cent from pre-pandemic levels, driving growth in private healthcare, according to figures released on Friday.

Private healthcare providers enrolled 198,000 patients in the October-December quarter of 2021, returning to levels seen in the same three-month period in 2019, a statement from the Private Healthcare Information Network showed.

Of these, 69,000 were self-payers, up from 50,000 for the same period in 2019. For the full year, self-payers increased 29 percent compared to 2019.

Meanwhile, the number of patients who elected to receive treatment through insurance in the fourth quarter of last year was 13 percent below 2019 levels, the independent government-mandated organization said.

Wales had the biggest jump as 90 per cent more people – 3,575 – were paying out of pocket. Scotland recorded an 84 percent increase. London was the largest market with 13,875 self-payers, a fifth more than in the last quarter of 2019.

Self-funded hip and knee replacement surgeries have more than doubled, while cataract surgeries increased by 56 percent.

Many have chosen to go down the self-funding route in the UK as NHS waiting lists have soared to more than 6million, exacerbated by the pandemic. Payment options have also helped spread costs.

The latest figures for May show a record 6.6million people waiting for NHS treatment, with 2.4million waiting longer than 18 weeks. The average waiting time is significantly higher than in times before Covid.

At the end of 2019, healthcare consultancy LaingBuisson valued the UK self-pay market, which includes diagnostic and elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements, at £1.1bn, representing around 21 per cent of the private healthcare market.

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