Harry Ashton

By Harry Ashton

In 2024, Fairer Finance collected data on which hospitals are available through different health insurance providers' hospital lists.

For each provider, we counted the number of hospitals on their hospital lists (we did not count clinics, physiotherapy centres, scanning and diagnostic centres, dental health, eyecare, or mental health facilities). Some providers also indicated to us their published lists are not exhaustive and that the use of other hospitals not on the list may still be covered. Our analysis covered several major health insurers: Aviva, AXA, Bupa, Freedom Health, The Exeter, and Vitality. Hospital list data was taken from these providers' websites.

Here are some key insights we've found from our analysis.

Unsurprisingly, we found significant regional variations in hospital availability. The South East is the best served region in the country, with 104 hospitals, while Greater London is not far behind with 94 facilities. There is a correlation between hospital availability and regional wealth, which suggests higher demand for private medical insurance in areas with higher income.

Our data reveals a stark contrast between different parts of the country. In England, the North East lags behind with just 19 private hospitals. Even when population is factored in there is far greater coverage in the South East with 1.12 private hospitals per 100,000 people compared to 0.72 in the North East.

Despite its smaller population, Scotland has a relative shortage of private healthcare facilities, with only 16 private hospitals on the lists we examined, and the least of any region per person with 0.29 private hospitals per 100,000 people.

Despite regional variations in the number of hospitals, there doesn’t appear to be a significant effect on customer satisfaction across different regions. Our latest polling data from February shows that, although there is regional variation in customer satisfaction, this doesn’t correlate with the number of private hospitals on insurers' lists.

We also asked customers to select the reasons why they said they were satisfied with their provider. On average, 21% of respondents selected the option “I have good access to a range of hospitals.” The region where this option was least selected was Scotland, at 18%, but this is not much less than the most well-served regions, such as London (22%) and the South East (21%). It appears that customers' happiness is more determined by other factors, including price (28%), reputation (34%), and customer service (29%).

What are the implications for health insurance providers?

The demand for private medical insurance is rising across the country, and it is rising faster in some of these regions that are currently less well served in terms of hospital provision. Data from The Private Healthcare Information Network shows that in-patient admissions between Q2 2022 and Q2 2023 have increased by 28% in Northern Ireland and 9% in Scotland. This is significantly higher than in England and Wales - although demand is still increasing there by 4%.

It's important that providers clearly communicate to customers before purchasing a health insurance policy that there may be variations in coverage between regions, and that some areas are more sparsely covered, especially given the rising demand in the areas. The best way to communicate this is through interactive maps which the customer sees when selecting their chosen list, so they can view all the facilities close to their address. Some good examples of this can be seen in both Bupa and The Exeter's purchase journeys, shown below. By presenting this information clearly like this, it helps inform customers about the benefits and suitability of the product.

To see our full hospital list data, and to compare different providers' plans, visit the Fairer Finance insight portal.

To discuss subscriptions to the insight portal, contact corporate@fairerfinance.com

Insurers were given the opportunity to comment on the data in this blog in advance - we are grateful for their helpful feedback.