The NHS’s real terms income from treating private patients declined in 2010 for the fifth year, according to market analysts Laing and Buisson.

The 2011-12 Laing’s Healthcare Market Review reports that NHS private patient revenues were £445m in 2010, a year-on-year fall of 1.6 per cent in real terms.

“There has been no significant growth in NHS private patient income since the early 2000s,” the report states.

“For much of the 2000s weak demand for non-cosmetic self-pay and overseas private healthcare demand, which is a major source of funding for trusts providing private patient services, has held back growth.”

It says it is not a certainty whether government plans to lift the “cap” on foundation trusts’ private patient income will greatly expand their private services. In the early 1990s private hospitals had fears about expansion of NHS services, but these proved “off the mark”.

“Crucial to the prosperity of NHS private patient services will be inclusion on the networks [of preferred providers maintained by] leading medical insurers,” the report states. “Exclusion of a large number of [private patient units] by Bupa and AXA PPP healthcare throughout the 2000s was probably a key reason holding back revenue growth.”