Research has found regional imbalances in access to private hospitals in the UK as demand for private healthcare is surging.

Consumer group Fairer Finance counted the number of facilities available through the hospital lists of several leading private medical insurance (PMI) providers and found regional “black spots”. These were places where access to private hospital facilities can be limited.

For example, the Northeast of England only had 19 private hospitals and 48 total facilities. Adjusted for population, there are 0.72 private hospitals per 100,000 individuals, lower than the Southeast’s 1.12.

Furthermore, Greater London led that charts with 406 facilities, but Scotland only had 16.

In addition, the increase in demand for private medical insurance (PMI) is evident, with a record 5.8 million people in the UK holding PMI policies, the highest number since 2008.

James Daley, managing director at Fairer Finance, said: “The consumer appetite for private medical insurance has been growing rapidly in recent years as more people have decided to hedge their healthcare while the NHS continues to struggle. Although this boom in demand is a great opportunity for the industry, it’s also a precarious moment for consumers – many of whom have never bought this insurance before and may not fully comprehend the nuances of coverage offered.

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“PMI policies vary enormously in terms of the conditions covered and treatments offered, and this latest research shows that geography also has a massive bearing on availability of care facilities. London and the Southeast of England have the lion’s share of private hospitals in the UK, but coverage is much thinner elsewhere.

“It’s important that providers clearly explain these limitations to customers before they buy a health insurance policy – so that customers understand exactly what they’re buying.”

AXA Health, a private medical insurer (PMI) in the UK, purchased online outpatient service provider HBSUK for an undisclosed sum.

The move is part of AXA Health’s efforts to ensure its PMI members have prompt access to the right care.  

HBSUK has been collaborating with AXA Health to provide effective care conveniently and swiftly.