- Nov. 2, 2019
-- NHS performance statistics published in August 2019 may well prompt some of us to look again at private health insurance and to ask if this is potentially an option.
In a survey of 901 GPs across the UK, Pulse Magazine found that the average waiting time for routine appointments is now almost 15 days – the first time it has ever exceeded a fortnight.
Equally, the latest NHS data presents a worrying picture - the number of patients who waited more than four hours to be seen in Accident and Emergency (A&E) was up from 208,083 to 275,526. The number of A&E patients in England waiting on trolleys for more than four hours to be admitted rose to the highest level since records began. Whilst many of these will have been serious emergencies, it is also a fact that A&E departments cater for many non-emergency admissions which might otherwise go via a GP, were the resources there.
At least one provider, National Friendly, thinks this presents a powerful argument for buying additional private medical cover to have alongside day to day NHS protection, especially as waiting lists grow.
Head of Sales and Marketing at National Friendly summarises the benefits as follows, "We regularly see the desire to jump waiting lists as a prime motivator for buying private health care – if you are in your 60s and suffering pain with a knee or hip that needs replacing, why would you wait up to six months and waste precious retirement time, if you could get it attended to more quickly? Other benefits of private health insurance are, in my opinion, now equally important. Things like consistency of treatment, the sense of privacy from having your own room and of course the fact that some drugs and treatments are just not available on the NHS for cost reasons but may well be available via your insurer. I really do believe that as we all get older, so our impatience grows."
The data supplied by Pulse's other research shows the waiting time situation may only get worse, as more and more GP surgeries close. GP surgeries are the first port of call for many patients and likely to grow in importance as the population continues to age. In 2018, according to Pulse, almost 140 surgeries closed, some eight times the number closing six years earlier in 2013. It is estimated that this will affect a record half a million patients.
Private health insurance might well buy peace of mind in these circumstances, as many policies can now offer a choice between inpatient, i.e. hospital cover, or outpatient, which focuses on diagnosis and therapies.