With the NHS under considerable pressure because of the COVID-19 pandemic and waiting lists hitting record highs, the case for taking out Private Medical Insurance (PMI), which allows access to private healthcare, is stronger than ever.
With millions of people falling ill and requiring hospital treatment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS has found itself under increasing pressure. As a result, waiting times for all manner of treatments, including routine procedures, have increased significantly.
In November, the number of patients awaiting treatment hit a record high of 4.46 million and referrals were well below 2019 levels, according to data from NHS England. In fact, millions of people are waiting for care and many, sadly, have had to wait longer than the NHS’s 18-week target. Official figures show that two-thirds (67%) of patients waiting for non-urgent, consultant-led treatments were treated within 18 weeks in May, far below the standard the NHS sets itself of treating 92% within this timeframe.
Fast forward to July 2021 and the situation shows no sign of improving. For the second month in a row, the number of patients waiting for NHS treatment in England broke records, reaching 5.3 million, official figures show. This reality has prompted warnings that the huge care backlog could exacerbate health service staff burnout.
The figures reveal the waiting list has grown by 606,501 over the last three months as the COVID pandemic has abated and patients have started using the NHS again. This has renewed fears that the number of patients waiting for NHS treatment in England could hit 7 million before the end of the year.
[Related reading: The Future Of Health Insurance Post-COVID]
Private Medical Insurance enables a person to take advantage of private healthcare, including private hospitals, by paying the associated costs. While patients can choose to pay for private treatment themselves, the costs of many procedures makes doing so prohibitive.
For example, a knee replacement at Guildford Hospital costs £12,785. However, the same operation is £15,840 at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital, highlighting how prices differ across the UK.
According to information published by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), an independent non-profit organisation, around 800,000 healthcare treatments are paid via medical insurance every year.
PHIN Chief Executive Matt James said: “For people with private medical insurance, your insurance should cover most costs, but it is important to check”. This is an important point as healthcare providers can pay out different amounts to different hospitals. Furthermore, the amount paid may not cover the full cost of the treatment. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the details of any Private Medical Insurance policy before committing.
[Related reading: 10 Reasons To Consider Private Healthcare In The UK]
The NHS provides an amazing service to millions of people and its importance should never be overlooked. However, with mounting pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic and growing waiting lists, taking out Private Medical Insurance, which allows access to private healthcare, provides a safeguard and peace of mind.