Almost one in three knee replacements and one in five hip replacements on the NHS are now carried out in private hospitals, official figures reveal.
Long waiting lists are forcing hospitals to outsource tens of thousands of the routine operations every year.
The Royal College of Surgeons warned the growing number of operations being carried out outside of NHS hospitals means young surgeons are not getting the experience they need.
Long waiting lists are forcing hospitals to outsource tens of thousands of the routine operations every year
Figures show 28,700 NHS-funded knee replacements – or 29.4 per cent – were carried out by private hospitals in 2016/17, up from 20.1 per cent in 2012/13.
Over the same period 22,872 hip replacements – or 19.7 per cent – were carried by the private sector in 2016/17, up from 13.7 per cent in 2012/13.
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS, said private hospitals provided ‘much-needed extra capacity’ but warned that the trend still risks drawing resources away from the NHS.
He added: ‘Ultimately, we would like to see the NHS grow to meet patient demand.
‘The Government’s long-term plan for the NHS must focus on creating the capacity that is needed, including beds, whether that be by building new wards, reopening wards that have been mothballed or ensuring there are enough staff to work on wards.’
Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health and social care secretary, said: ‘Yet again this is more evidence that years of cuts to bed numbers, whilst forcing on hospitals the tightest financial squeeze in history, has wider consequences that undermine the fabric of our NHS.
‘Ballooning waiting lists mean patients left in agony longer, and hospitals bosses forced to use the private sector to cope with demands.
‘This isn’t sustainable and taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for a private sector bonanza like this. Tory ministers can’t keep burying their heads in the sand. They need to get a grip urgently of growing waiting lists.’
The Royal College of Surgeons warned the growing number of operations being carried out outside of NHS hospitals means young surgeons are not getting the experience they need
A spokeswoman for Health Education England (HEE) said: ‘Health Education England is working with the Royal College of Surgeons to promote excellent training opportunities in order to provide high quality surgical care.
‘HEE will facilitate training in non-NHS providers if the standards for training are met including the appropriate supervision from consultants is in place.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘Two million more operations were carried out last year compared to 2010 and for decades the NHS has used the independent sector to carry out some operations like knee and hip replacements where this is in the best interest of patients.
‘As part of our long-term plan for the NHS, we will increase funding by an average 3.4% per year, meaning that by 2023/24 it will receive an extra £56 million every day than it currently does.’