As we approach what finally looks like an end to the pandemic, we wondered here at Switch Health what people around the UK are now thinking about healthcare, and if they’re getting the level of service they need, if any at all.
Because, as most people surely know by now, our cherished NHS has been battling for the last two years of the Covid-19 health crisis to keep up with the amount of people being hospitalised while at the same time postponing surgeries and other procedures to make space for the flood of coronavirus patients.
Are people still reliant on the NHS as it continues to struggle amid a record backlog of 6 million people on the waiting list that’s expected to get even longer? Or are they more likely to take their healthcare into their own hands and attend a private hospital or clinic, and either pay for procedures themselves or have any private health insurance cover the costs?
We wanted to find out. So we asked UK public relations firm Reachology to conduct a survey of 1,000 British adults in early February, scientifically weighted for national representation so it would give an accurate picture of people’s views.
Private Health Cover: Yes or No?
It may surprise you, but even amid the pandemic, when most people couldn’t get NHS appointments or procedures, the majority of those we polled said they don’t have health insurance cover and are therefore reliant on the NHS. That’s unless they want to pay their own way, at a private hospital, but it’s often expensive – the average cost of a private hip replacement is £12,500, for instance.
A total of 84% of people who took part in our survey said they don’t have private health cover while the remainder, 16%, do. So if the former need treatment on the NHS, they must be prepared to wait, and waiting times are currently stretching into a year and beyond for at least 300,000 people. This has led to a boom for private hospitals in the UK, as more people than ever opt to pay for procedures, because they simply cannot wait for the health service.
But not everyone has the money to fund private treatments and operations, which means they must linger on NHS waiting lists until their turn finally comes around. It’s important to note that private health care plans don’t usually cover pre-existing conditions, so if you’re currently suffering from something and you take out private health cover, it most likely won’t pay for your treatment.
The desire for Private Health Insurance
Our survey also uncovered a greater desire among respondents to take out private healthcare insurance since the pandemic erupted over two years ago and put health at the forefront of our minds. It’s almost certain that the massive NHS backlog, which is constantly in the news, is also propelling people to consider private over public healthcare, which provides almost instant access to doctors and surgeons, higher levels of care and oftentimes luxurious surroundings.
The combination of lengthy NHS waiting times and Covid-19 now means 14% of our survey participants would be “more likely” to take out private health insurance in case they got sick or became injured while 6% would be “much more likely to”. And the benefits of private medical care have become more attractive to respondents too, with 18% saying they had a better view of being treated privately instead of at an NHS hospital.
As many private hospitals have been finding out in recent times, having private healthcare is an investment that a growing segment of the population can not afford to be without – saving them not only time and money but also their precious health.