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Children receiving private medical treatment risen by more than 46,000

New data released under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows more sick children are having to go private whilst others face dire NHS waits.

First reported by the BBC, the research shows that the number of children receiving treatment in private hospitals across the UK rose by almost a quarter last year and at least 20,000 had to wait at least a year for treatment including surgery.

a doctor examining a child's stomach with a stethoscope

The data from the FOI request covers children across the UK, but most of the long waits were found to be in England – approaching 16,000 at the beginning of this month which is an increase of 15% in a year. This statistic is particularly surprising because before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it was pretty rare for children to wait more than a year for an operation.

With this in mind, trusts in England say children must be prioritised by the government and they should free up more funding to allow trusts to commission more surgery.

Against this backdrop, NHS England – which runs the health service in this country – said it is working to increase the number of ring-fenced beds for paediatric surgery, in addition to critical care beds. What’s more, the Department of Health and Social Care added NHS England have also established a task force to help bring down wait times for children’s surgery.

Figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network further outlined the children’s health crisis. The data doesn’t include NHS trusts using private hospitals to provide treatment, but it does showcase the number of children having surgery privately rose almost a fifth last year to over 24,000.  

Children aged 15 to 17 were found to be the biggest patient group for surgery – some of the procedures include the insertion of grommets in the ears, removal of tonsils and adenoids, and orthopaedic surgery.

One of the hospitals working to make a change includes Great Ormond Street Hospital, who told the BBC: ‘While we have reduced our cardiac surgery waiting list by 25% since the pandemic, there are many challenges we continue to face’.

The hospital added the challenges include demands for beds form emergency patients.

Image: Bermix Studio

More on this topic:

Consultation on helping Kent children who miss school due to illness

‘This is My Life’ report from Disabled Children’s Partnership

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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