Private healthcare providers are reporting a surge in demand as a survey shows rising numbers of Britons turn to private providers for healthcare despite the United Kingdom having one of the highest proportions of government health spending on earth.
The United Kingdom’s £180-billion a year National Health Service (NHS) is so struggling to keep up with demand, a full 13 per cent of British households have used private healthcare in the past year. A further 27 per cent have considered using it but didn’t because they couldn’t afford it, with those who can effectively paying twice, once through taxes for a system that fails to deliver and again for direct private provision.
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In all, 40 per cent of households had accessed or wanted to access private healthcare, and this in a country which has one of the highest proportions of state spending on healthcare in the world.
The figures are staggering given the United Kingdom, through taxation, makes health care ‘free at the point of use’, meaning if it was provided at acceptable quality and within reasonable timeframes, demand for private treatment should be rock-bottom. Some, as the Guardian reports, have said throwing more money at the problem will make it go away.
The vast majority of private-care users were either paying for health care for the first time, or had done so in the past but “typically would use the NHS”.
Underlining the difficulties the socialised healthcare system is having to keep up with demand, particularly after government policy during the Coronavirus era and long-term policy implications, are the reasons why those interviewed in YouGov’s research decided to go private. A considerable 53 per cent said they wanted to be seen more quickly — a very real concern as waiting times to access healthcare in the socialised system are now at an all-time high — and amazingly 18 per cent said private was “the only option available”.
Reflecting this move, The Times reports one private healthcare company said demand was up 39 per cent over the previous year.
The research comes amid a backdrop of major strikes in the NHS, including of nurses and doctors demanding pay rises.
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