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US investors expanding into NHS mental healthcare

By Charlotte Ricca

A quarter of NHS mental healthcare privately owned, costing £1.8bn

Around 25 per cent of NHS beds in mental healthcare are now privately owned, with US investors taking an increasing interest.

According to new research healthcare consultancy Candesic, which analysed data from the Care Quality Commision, 13 per cent of private mental health beds in England are owned by US companies.

In parts of the UK these figures are far higher. In Manchester, 50 per cent of patients are admitted to a privately owned hospital, with one in four beds provided by an American-owned company.

In Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, 95 per cent of mental healthcare beds are privately owned – 60 per cent of which are US companies. These include the Nasdaq-listed Acadia Healthcare, owners of the Priory hospitals, and Cygnet Health Care.

The NHS will be a crucial battleground in next month’s general election, with the Labour Party planning to cut back on private provision.

Jo Taylor, principal strategy adviser at Candesic, said: “Alongside accountability, staffing issues and quality of care, these larger US companies are pushing out smaller independent providers. I can’t see the NHS competing against these massive private mental health hospitals, right on its doorstep.

“It is similar to what we have seen in residential homes, where there is a retraction of local authority provisions.”

The UK market for independent mental health hospitals grew by 4.1 per cent to £1.8bn (€2bn, $2.3bn) billion in calendar 2018, and its value is expected to reach £2.3 billion by 2023.

William Laing, an analyst with healthcare consultancy Laing Buisson said the private sector involvement in mental health services “far exceeds” its use in other parts of the NHS. As a result “there is always a risk that the NHS could decide to insource services”.

FURTHER READING: Five NHS trusts sign first partnership with Google

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