One in five British adults have been forced to go private for care
13th September 2021

One in five British adults have been forced to ditch the NHS and go private for medical care since Covid struck, survey finds

  • NHS waiting lists have spiralled to record levels amid the Covid pandemic
  • Boris Johnson has promised to raise taxes to help cut the waiting times for care
  • But a survey today suggested Britons are already opting not to use the NHS 

One in five Britons have been forced to use private healthcare since Covid struck, a survey revealed today.

NHS waiting lists have already spiralled to record levels, with 5.6million patients in England — or one in ten residents — now waiting for care.

Boris Johnson has promised to pump an extra £30billion into the health service over the next three years, on top of a £5.4million cash boost announced last week.

But Britons already appear to be opting not to use the NHS amid long waits for care and mammoth waiting lists. 

The above table shows the proportion of respondents to a survey who agreed with each question. The survey was carried out by charity Engage Britain

There are already 5.6million people waiting for care on the NHS in England — or one in ten residents. Amid the long queues Britons appear to be opting for private care

Record number of patients turning to private care due to waiting lists 

Patients are choosing to pay for their own care rather than join the ever-growing NHS waiting list.

The chief executive of Spire Healthcare, Justin Ash, said last week that demand for their services had rocketed by 80 per cent.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘An increasing number of people are choosing to pay for their care.

‘In particular, they’re finding it difficult to get through to hard-pressed GPs.’

Mr Ash added that the NHS should use private hospitals to help clear its backlog, saying it would be ‘good for getting the waiting list down if companies like us were used more.’

Spire Healthcare operates 39 private hospitals in the UK. 

Charity Engage Britain found 840 out of 4,000 people it questioned said they were left with no option but to pay for their own care.

As many as 1,120 said they had to fight for treatment on the NHS, and 1,000 said the ever-growing waiting times had impacted their mental health.

But their survey also revealed Britons are still rallying behind the health service, with 3,080 respondents (77 per cent) saying it made them proud to be British. 

As many as 3,400 (85 per cent) also said they thought NHS staff were overstretched but doing their very best.

Their results echo the words of a UK private healthcare provider’s boss, who said they were seeing a surge in patients in the wake of the pandemic.

Chief executive of Spire Healthcare Justin Ash said last week that demand for their services had rocketed 80 per cent.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘An increasing number of people are choosing to pay for their care.

‘In particular, they’re finding it difficult to get through to hard-pressed GPs.’

Mr Ash added that the NHS should use private hospitals to help clear its backlog, saying it would be ‘good for getting the waiting list down if companies like us were used more’.

NHS England boss Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘NHS staff have worked tirelessly over the pandemic, caring for 450,000 patients with the virus in hospital, which has inevitably had a knock-on effect on less urgent care and created a backlog, but staff are also now pulling out all the stops to recover services and help more people as they come forward for care.

‘During June and July, the NHS delivered millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations than we did last summer, while the health service is also currently treating more than ten times the number of patients with Covid in hospital compared to this time last year.’

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