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NHS waiting lists hit new high. Is private healthcare the way forward?

There is a growing concern regarding NHS backlogs. It is a problem as people are having to wait much longer than is recommended for treatment that they sometimes desperately need.

Consequently, private healthcare is becoming more popular, due to faster services. However, there are pros and cons for both NHS and private healthcare. 

The number of patients waiting for NHS treatment in England has increased every month over the past 2 years, reaching a record high of 6.6 million people in May this year. To put it into context, that is around one in nine of the population. The global pandemic is largely to blame here and there is no doubt the NHS continues to be under unprecedented pressure. 

The results of the latest GP patient experience survey show that more than half of patients (55%) who needed an appointment said they had avoided making one in the last year, up from 42% in 2021. Also, more than a quarter (27%) had not made an appointment because they found it too difficult, up from just 11% in 2021. This needs urgently addressing as those patients may be putting off appointments which could ultimately save their lives. 

On the other hand, in the last three months of 2021, 69,000 treatments were privately paid for by people in the UK according to the Private Healthcare Information Network, which is a 39 per cent rise on the same period pre-pandemic. 

Bridge McFarland LLP is pleased to note that there are aims to eliminate waiting lists of more than one year by March 2025. 

There is a common misconception that if you pay for private healthcare, you will receive “gold standard” care in comparison to that provided by the NHS. However, healthcare professionals who work in private practice also work in the NHS. It is not as though private practice doctors are generally more skilled than NHS doctors. You can receive private and NHS care for the same condition, and your NHS and private treatment would be supervised by one team.  All healthcare professionals, whether in an NHS or private setting, owe a duty of care to their patient to exercise reasonable care. They all must act in a patient’s best interests and are regulated by the same professional bodies and bound by the same clinical guidelines. 

A disadvantage of private healthcare is the risk that the treating professional will not have appropriate indemnity cover in place to cover the costs of a clinical negligence claim if things go wrong. 

A doctor is required to have “adequate and appropriate insurance or indemnity in place” but there is no requirement that this be for a specific amount.  This should cover liabilities that may be incurred having regard to the nature and extent of the risks. The type and level of insurance or indemnity a doctor requires depends on factors including where a doctor works, whether they are employed (and, if so by whom and for what services) or self-employed, and the nature of work they do. 

If you attend an NHS hospital for treatment, you will usually be covered for these sorts of risks however, we have worked for clients where a private doctor has not had sufficient professional indemnity insurance in place. 

It is true however that you will be seen by a private consultant much faster, at this moment in time, though this does usually come at a hefty price. 

We are fortunate to benefit from NHS healthcare when we become injured or unwell, which is free at the point of use. 

If anyone has any queries or concerns regarding NHS or private treatment, please contact Bridge McFarland LLP for a free no obligation chat.