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  • Rising demand for private healthcare driven by easy access and consumer choice

Rising demand for private healthcare driven by easy access and consumer choice

Consumer preference is driving an increased demand for private healthcare in the UK, according to a report published by GK. Austerity is reportedly having a minor impact on demand, with evidence suggesting that patients are seeking private services for cancer treatment, IVF treatment and hip & knee operations at a growing rate.

GK found that the demand for private healthcare has nearly doubled since 2013, showing a growth of 24% between the years 2016-2017 alone. The report claims that cancer patients are more likely to go private to receive experimental treatments, whilst those looking for IVF treatment prefer the private-pay market due to the higher level of convenience offered. Similarly, patients undergoing elective hip and knee surgeries cited improved ease of access, efficiency and perceived quality as the main reasons for choosing private treatment, despite there being no drop in overall patient outcomes in NHS services.

These trends are set to continue, due to an increasing likelihood of a combination of the NHS and private services working simultaneously during the same course of treatment.

The report summarises that 32% of private-pay cancer patients chose to use private services because of the range of readily available drugs and treatments that can be offered privately. GK also reported that private cancer treatment searches on google have increased by 63% since 2013, increasing from 197,00 to 321,400. These surges are despite larger funding for cancer, through which the NHS benefited from a 7% growth rate in budgets for specialised clinical commissioning and waiting times for both referral and treatment remaining stable.

Of the patients considering to seek private IVF treatment, 39% are reported to be considering self-pay services as a result of the availability of treatments. This figure is despite only 6 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) in the UK being unable to offer an IVF service of any kind, but rationing and restrictions are increasing in the NHS, meaning private healthcare is becoming more of an attractive option.

Hip and knee replacements on the NHS have remained relatively stable according to GK, but a key issue noted by patients considering private treatment was the lack of availability of NHS treatment due to high demand for services, with 40% of patients going private mentioning that it played a role in their decision making. 42% of people that were considering private hip and knee treatment emphasised the ease of access and convenience that the private-pay market provided.

Emily Wallace, CEO at GK Strategy stated that, “It’s clear from our research that patients are increasingly opting to pay for services privately and that they are primarily attracted by the ease of access and availability of treatment on offer. As financial constraint and pressures in the NHS continue to grow, we anticipate that private pay is likely to be a growing part of our health economy.

“People increasingly see paying for healthcare as a way of catering to their own preferences – prioritising convenience over other factors. Convenience remains the main key differentiating factor as the NHS continues to deliver high quality patient outcomes despite severe financial stringencies.”

Overall, the report suggests that patients are becoming more like consumers in their preferences, attaching value to accessibility, convenience and choice.

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