Private healthcare becomes more popular as NHS waiting lists reach 14m

Waiting lists for procedures and operations at NHS hospitals could almost triple from the current 5 million plus to nearly 14 million, prompting more people to seek private healthcare instead

That’s according to a new analysis of NHS waiting lists in England, which are already at record levels as hospitals struggle to cope with a massive backlog of cases. 

The health service is battling to deal with a large number of new appointments that were put off during the Covid-19 pandemic last year and existing appointments and procedures that were cancelled or postponed.

This has led to a situation at the NHS where more than 385,000 people are waiting more than a year for surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.

The new waiting-list forecast by the Institute for Fiscal Studies points to a “missing” 7 million people who would normally have been on NHS waiting lists last year but were not. 

“Even if only two-thirds of the missing patients return, then with capacity at 95% of pre-pandemic levels — much more than the NHS is currently managing — waiting lists could easily exceed 13 million (and keep growing),” the institute said

At the same time, the NHS is also dealing with a staffing crisis, as record numbers of doctors and nurses take extended periods of sick leave over stress and burnout related to their round-the-clock pandemic work.

This has heaped even more pressure on the health service and further delayed operations and procedures.

The NHS is now turning to the private healthcare sector to help it out with its huge patient backlog and has earmarked £10 billion in spending for the initiative. 

Injection of popularity for private hospitals

Private hospitals around the UK are experiencing a surge in demand for their services, with people unable or unwilling to wait long periods for a procedure opting to pay for them instead of having it done on the NHS.

And private surgery can often be a much different experience for patients compared to the NHS. 

For starters, there’s almost no waiting around. After making an initial appointment to see a consultant, patients are given the nearest available date to attend, which may even be the day they made the appointment or a day or two afterwards.

Seeing fewer patients means people can spend as much time discussing their health issues with their doctor, instead of a limited appointment time and being rushed out the door as a queue of people wait their turn.

And as private hospitals typically have bigger budgets for the latest in medical equipment and the higher salaries of the best medical professionals in the field, private patients benefit from enhanced procedures and top-level medical care.

This can mean faster recovery times and getting back to normal life more quickly. 

The luxury of private healthcare

Those who have medical insurance plans can use them to pay for their private hospital treatments and surgeries. But if not, they can pay private hospitals directly.

Many such medical institutions now have packages for surgeries and procedures that make them more affordable than ever. 

Undoubtedly, one of the aspects many people like about private hospitals most is the level of luxury they get — everything from comfortable surroundings to private rooms that more resemble a hotel than a hospital.

Fine dining may also be a feature, with patients able to order what they like from an extensive menu, instead of being dished up the same, potentially unappetising fare as everyone else. 

It could indeed be just what the doctor ordered — and help to lift some of the burden and strain on the overwhelmed NHS.

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