The NHS has provided everyone across the UK access to good healthcare, regardless of income, for almost 70 years. However, over the past few decades with longer life expectancy and a rising population, the NHS is under increasing strain to provide the same level of care without increases in its funding. You may already be familiar with some of the benefits of private medical insurance (PMI) including shorter waiting times, specialist care and a greater spread of choice over your care. But what about the benefits to the NHS?
Ease NHS waiting lists
One of the main reasons many opt for PMI is to avoid long NHS waiting times. An analysis from the NHS Partners Network suggests the number of patients waiting longer than the initial 18-week treatment target is set to increase from approximately 364,000 to between 584,000 and 809,000 by 2020. Furthermore, the total number of patients waiting for treatment after referral is at its highest level since 2007.
The PMI sector can facilitate the NHS in meeting overall waiting time objectives which can ease some of the pressures faced by NHS staff. The Association of Independent Healthcare (AIHO) believes that the NHS should continue to utilise independent hospitals to help patients receive timely care and treatment, which in turn will decrease overall waiting list numbers enabling NHS staff to attend to patients under less time pressure – therefore improving the level of care.
Relieving Financial Pressures
One example of some of the financial challenges faced by the NHS is the number of trusts that have experienced a sharp financial deficit since 2009. The NHS spent 3.5% of the UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in its infancy in the 1940s; this has increased substantially to 10% as of 2017. Between 2012-2016, the percentage of trusts in deficit increased from 11% to almost two thirds of trusts at 65%. Most recently, NHS trusts reported a deficit of £886m between January and August in 2017.
Private medical cover facilities already contribute substantially to the NHS. In 2016, it was reported by the AIHO that income received by NHS trusts from PMI facilities rose by 23% in the previous four years. Chief Executive of the AIHO at the time, Fiona Booth, said the “profits made were re-injected back in the NHS in providing services”.
Furthermore, AIHO believe that not only can PMI help the NHS, but also plays a much bigger role in the UK economic landscape in doing so. According to a report conducted by the organisation, hip and knee operations conducted in independent hospitals contribute up to £692m to the overall UK economy. This is achieved through reduced employee sick days contributing to business productivity, savings on employee benefit support and most importantly, savings costs for the NHS.