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Thousands ‘go private’, many more forced to wait

Since the pandemic began early last year, NHS waiting lists – currently sitting at 5.6m, and growing by 150,000 a monthup by 20 per cent since the start of the pandemic and predicted by health secretary Sajid Javid to eventually hit 13m – are now a prime consideration in private health companies’ business models, promising new profits driven by rising numbers of patients effectively forced to use their services.

And even those patients who can’t afford private surgery – in the latest Healthwatch England poll, that’s almost 50 per cent of respondents waiting for delayed treatment – often have to pay just to manage their pain levels. Research by charity Versus Arthritis, revealed in a recent BBC Panorama documentary, found that 54 per cent of people with arthritis and currently waiting for surgery spend on average more than £1,700 a year on private physiotherapy and over-the-counter painkillers.

No wonder then that a survey of 4,000 adults by charity Engage Britain last month found that 21 per cent – that’s more than one in five – had had to go private because NHS treatment was unavailable, and another survey earlier this year showed that 13 per cent of consumers in the UK already belonged to a private medical insurance scheme, and more than half – 53 per cent – said they would pay for private treatment.

Full story in The Lowdown, 4 October 2021

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