A large percentage of the British public would consider private healthcare in the case of a serious health issue, according to a new survey. In June 2022, we asked 1,001 adults in the United Kingdom a series of questions about their attitudes to private healthcare, and their responses reveal some interesting themes about current public perceptions.
Of those asked, 18.6% said they would ‘definitely consider’ private healthcare if faced with a long waiting list, whilst 34.8% said they ‘might consider’ private healthcare in that situation. The first finding is roughly consistent with findings from research conducted in March 2022 by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a leading progressive think tank, which found that 17% of those surveyed would strongly consider private healthcare if faced with a lengthy wait on the NHS.
Our survey showed that those in the 35 to 44 age group are the most likely to ‘strongly consider’ using private healthcare when faced with a lengthy waiting period on the NHS, with 23.6% saying they’d ‘strongly consider’ private healthcare in that situation.
That’s quite a bit more when compared to the 65+ age group, of whom only 17.8% said they’d consider private healthcare when faced with a long wait for treatment. This seems to show a difference in attitudes towards the NHS amongst age groups, rather than just reflecting an ability to pay, given that on average the elderly in the United Kingdom hold significantly more wealth than the young.
The average waiting time for treatment on the NHS is currently just over 3 months
The current data on NHS waiting times shows that there have been difficulties adjusting to life after the COVID-19 pandemic. According to May 2022 data from the British Medical Association, the median waiting time for treatment is 12.7 weeks, which is substantially higher than pre-pandemic.
In May 2022, 2.4 million people had been waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment on the NHS, and an unlucky 330,000 people had been waiting over a year.
Shorter waiting times for treatment is the primary reason for choosing private healthcare, according to our survey
In our June 2022 survey, the respondents also identified five main benefits of private healthcare. In priority order, these are:
- Shorter waiting times;
- Higher quality healthcare;
- Access to specialist consultants;
- More personalised healthcare; and
- Access to a wider range of healthcare treatments.
Both men and women cited “shorter waiting times” as the primary reason for using private healthcare, but men placed a higher value on healthcare quality. In contrast, women were more likely to be drawn to the benefits of the more personalised approach offered by private providers.
Likewise, respondents in all age groups gave shorter waiting times as the main reason for using private healthcare. Those in the 55 to 64 age group gave “access to specialist consultants” as the second most important reason for choosing private healthcare, whilst in all other age groups, the second most important reason was the perceived higher quality of healthcare provided.
The key finding of this survey is that by offering reduced waiting times for treatment, private healthcare is an attractive option. Though other factors are important, short wait times are seen as the primary reason to pay for healthcare services, even above the quality of service provided and the range of treatments available. As such, we should expect increased demand for private healthcare when NHS waiting lists are long.
If you would like to speak to a doctor about a procedure or condition, book an appointment with one of our private GPs. You can book an appointment any time you like. We may even be able to see you on the same day, giving you immediate care without the long wait.