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Private patients who use NHS cost £1bn a year

Almost £1bn a year is being forfeited by the NHS because hospitals are spending their cash treating patients with private medical insurance who could pay for their care.

Nearly one in three patients receiving NHS hospital treatment is privately insured and could have the cost paid for by their insurer, claims a study. But patients do not claim on their insurance because they may be afraid it will increase their premium, or they may have to pay an excess charge, or their GP may omit to ask them if they are insured.

Keith Biddlestone at HCA International, which owns six private hospitals in London and commissioned the study, said: "Many patients choose to move between private and NHS care, but these figures show just how much private medical insurers rely on the NHS to maintain profitability."

The report, by private health analysts Laing and Buisson, estimates 250,000 operations are performed on patients with private medical insurance a year at a cost of £359m.