Covid-19 prompts more than a quarter of young adults to consider private healthcare

11 April 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in just over a quarter (27%) of GB’s young adults more likely to consider private healthcare, according to Spire Healthcare.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the FTSE-250 provider reveals a significant trend in attitudes towards healthcare provision, with the youngest cohort (aged 18-34) now more likely to consider paying privately following the COVID-19 pandemic than any other age group.

Across the general population, 21% of Britons declare themselves more likely to choose private health services than pre-Covid.

Only 5% of the 18–34 demographic are now less likely to consider private healthcare as an option over NHS services than pre-pandemic.

The impact of waiting lists

In a further survey of 2,000 GB adults commissioned by Spire, almost three in ten (29%) of those aged 18-34 said they would consider paying for private healthcare out of their own resources (self-pay) in light of growing NHS waiting lists. This compares to 23% of the population as a whole saying they’d fund their own healthcare due to long waits for public treatment.

Earlier this month, Spire Healthcare reported its full year results for 2021 which revealed an 80% increase in revenue from self-pay activity when compared to 2019’s pre-Covid levels.

Private medical insurance

The survey found further shifts in young people’s attitudes towards Private Medical Insurance (PMI).

The 18-34 cohort declare themselves more likely to invest in PMI than their older counterparts. Among those who weren’t currently covered by health insurance, 16% of those aged 18-34 express an intention to take out a policy paid for by themselves in the future, the highest of all age groups.

For those 18-34-year-olds who do not at present have PMI policies, but would consider visiting a private hospital for both a £5,000 treatment and £5,000 diagnosis, the majority (54%) would pay from their own savings. This is compared with 29%of the same group who would take out a personal loan to finance the treatment.

With a view to making healthcare more accessible, Spire offers a range of loan options which provide patients with the flexibility to spread the cost of private treatment, including interest-free repayments.

General surgery in highest demand among young

The survey data aligns with trends Spire is witnessing across its own business. Spire data shows a rise in demand from patients aged 18-34 since the onset of the pandemic. Comparing figures from H2 2019 and H2 2021, the firm has seen a 35% increase in patients within this age bracket. Outlined in the below table are the most popular treatment areas, with general surgery in highest demand for 18-34-year-olds.

Treatment areas Example treatment and median price

General surgery

Inguinal hernia repair (£2,800)

Orthopaedic surgery

Knee ligament reconstruction (£5,500)


Laparoscopic / therapeutic procedures for endometriosis (£2,900)

Ear, Nose and Throat

Adult tonsillectomy (£2,100)


Diagnostic OGD gastroscopy (£1,750)

Most popular clinical treatment areas for Spire Healthcare patients aged 18-34 (H2 2021)

Justin Ash, CEO of Spire Healthcare, comments: "The COVID-19 pandemic has changed UK healthcare, leading to a fundamental shift in attitudes towards the choice of private healthcare, especially amongst younger people – the future users of the country’s healthcare system.

“With rising NHS waiting lists, we are seeing more people eager to understand what’s wrong with them and access the relevant treatment as quickly as possible. We see this as a core reason why more people are considering private healthcare for diagnosis and treatment.

“These YouGov findings suggest a longer-term shift in attitudes towards private healthcare among young people, perhaps giving a glimpse into how Britons will approach their choices in health and wellbeing in the future.

“The challenge for us now is to develop new services the meet the unique healthcare needs of younger people.”

Spire Healthcare already offers a number of services which cater to the needs of younger adults. These include:

  • Spire GP, which provides fast access to a GP at a time that suits them
  • inSpire insurance, which, among other benefits, offers direct access to physiotherapists without a GP referral and a 24/7 hotline to medical professionals
  • Specialist treatment for sports injuries