Nearly half (46%) of the British public are worried about NHS waiting times in England and believe that they are the biggest healthcare concern in the country right now.
That’s one of the stark findings of some new research conducted on behalf of private hospital group BMI Healthcare.
According to the research, over two-thirds of the public (68%) would consider paying for private healthcare treatments in the future if it meant they avoided lengthy NHS waiting times.
Furthermore, the research found that 64% of people had previously undergone treatment on the NHS and of those people, 20% had waited between six months and two years. A further 5% waited more than two years.
The BMI Healthcare survey, which quizzed 1,191 people, also found that a disconnect exists between the public’s perception of how long they will have to wait for treatment on the NHS and how long they would like to wait.
For example, respondents indicated that they believed the average waiting time for a simple medical procedure on the NHS (one that does not require an overnight stay) was 4.4 months (just over a third of a year).
The survey respondents also said, though, they thought it was acceptable to wait for up to three months only for such a procedure.
The NHS currently has a target which sees it strive to treat 92% of patients within 18 weeks from referral to treatment. However, in March this year, the health service only hit this target in 91.5% of cases, its worst performance since the target was introduced back in 2012.
BMI Healthcare said that this equates to over 300,000 patients not receiving treatment for their illness or injury within the 18-week target.
At the end of April, NHS waiting lists grew by 63,000, with more than 3.6 million patients waiting to start treatment. Moreover, 870 of these individuals had been waiting more than 52 weeks.
David Houlihan-Burne, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon whose primary practice is at the BMI Bishops Wood Hospital in Middlesex, said that patients could get back on their feet more quickly and/or access services which are not currently provided on the NHS if they pay for their own treatment.
The pressure faced by the NHS at present can also be seen in recent research from the specialist financial services provider for doctors, Wesleyan.
According to the Wesleyan research, 57% of doctors said they had thought about pursuing a private healthcare career. In addition, 63% said they had considered or started locum work to ease some of the pressure placed on them by their jobs.
Professor Parveen Kumar, former president of the British Medical Association, said the figures highlighted how the profession was “under pressure”.
One of the main reasons people choose to buy PMI is to avoid the NHS waiting lists and this still holds true. However, this research shows that if the market had access to innovative and affordable PMI policies more people would consider purchasing this cover.
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