Survey finds below average earners are considering paying for their own healthcare as NHS waiting lists lengthen

October 2011

In a bid to skip waiting lists, even those who earn below average salaries are considering paying for their own healthcare according to a recent survey by Spire Healthcare.  A quarter of adults who earn below average  salaries said they would pay to go private, even though 87% said they did not have private medical insurance to cover the cost of treatment.

The survey showed that 58% of low earners  said they would be willing to sacrifice their annual holiday in order to pay for necessary treatment or an operation.  The survey of 2,000 people from across the UK demonstrated that over half of the respondents think it is becoming more popular for ‘normal’ people to opt for private treatment because of the increasing waiting times at NHS hospitals. Four in ten of the adults polled said they felt that the NHS would not be able to look after them in the future.

Spire Healthcare also carried out a survey of its own self funding patients asking them why they chose to pay for their treatment.  Forty-one per cent had chosen to pay for their treatment because they were concerned the wait was too long for the NHS.  Ninety per cent of those surveyed considered paying for treatment to be good value for money and 82% thought that by choosing to pay privately for their treatment someone else could take their place for treatment funded by the NHS.

In the last year Spire Healthcare has seen a bigger increase in the number of patients self-funding their treatment in the North compared with the South. In particular, two of its hospitals in the North West had witnessed self-funding treatment increase by as much as 29%.

Patient Gillian Hazel Councell stated:  “I recently paid for a hip replacement and it has made an amazing difference to my quality of life.  I understood from my GP that I was going to have to wait up to a month for an appointment with a consultant and another 20 weeks for surgery. I also needed a CT scan and would have to wait another two months to get an appointment for the results.  I understand this is all because it was not considered “life threatening”. Quite rightly if you consider how some people are suffering but what this process did not take into account was how my quality of life was affected by the pain and lack of mobility.  I was lucky enough to be able to fund the procedure myself rather than wait and it has been worth every penny.”

Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter, clinical director at Spire Healthcare added: “In the past, private healthcare may have been seen as something that was only accessible by the wealthy but it is obvious that times have changed. Though everyone may be entitled to NHS treatment, our research indicates that many people are revisiting their priorities, despite the challenging economic environment. In the past year alone we have seen a noticeable increase in people paying for treatment themselves as a one off payment. Some of our hospitals have witnessed as much as a 29% increase year-on-year.”

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