The NHS could save more than £285 million a year if more GPs routinely asked their patients if they have medical insurance, according to BMI Healthcare, the UK’s largest independent provider of private healthcare.
Despite growing pressures on NHS budgets and resources, only around a third of GPs routinely ask their patients if they have health insurance, according to a survey of 1,000 doctors carried out by ComRes and commissioned by BMI Healthcare.
As a result, treatments which could be carried out by the independent sector are being directed to the NHS at a time when it is looking to make efficiencies and its annual budget is struggling to meet growing demand. Additionally, the impact of doctors not asking patients about medical insurance could also be contributing to increased waiting lists.
Due to budgetary pressures, a number of NHS Trusts around the UK have already delisted some treatments completely or restricted access and wait times have already begun to rise. Operations effected in parts of the UK include routine shoulder, hip and knee surgery as well as, removal of varicose veins and fertility treatment.
The NHS is also facing transformational changes through the Government’s White Paper proposals, which will see GPs given responsibility for commissioning services, and controlling the vast majority of the NHS budget. These changes will leave GPs facing difficult decisions on how to prioritise treatments and operations.
Adrian Fawcett of BMI Healthcare says, "The NHS is facing severe pressure on its budget due to increasing healthcare demand from our society. With people living longer, this demand will continue to grow causing even further pressure on NHS resources. Therefore it is important we widen the sources for healthcare funding, and one of the simplest ways GPs can help do this is by routinely asking patients if they have private medical insurance and whether they would like to use it to access more timely treatment. Even a small percentage rise in the number of people using insurance to pay for care would result in significant savings for the NHS. It would also allow the NHS to be resourced for people who cannot afford their own insurance or do not get access to it as an employment related benefit. Patients themselves are often reluctant to reveal to their GP that they have medical insurance for fear of embarrassment. We are at a point where huge healthcare change is upon us due to societal pressures and we must find ways to support the NHS in continuing to deliver first-class care. That means exploring all appropriate avenues and doctors should be mandated as a matter of course to ask if a patient has access to private medical insurance."