Nine in ten NHS hospitals are overcrowded

Independent research shows NHS waiting times and strict eligibility criteria are hindering access to treatment, but many people are unaware of the self-pay alternatives.

In February, the BBC reported than nine out of ten NHS trusts are running hospitals with dangerously overcrowded wards. Further research by Censuswide, on behalf of BMI Healthcare, has found that 71% of the UK public has concerns about seeking medical treatment. 46% said that their biggest concern was the length of waiting times for NHS care. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on, and what the alternative options are for people who can’t or don’t want to receive treatment on the NHS.

Overcrowded wards in 90% of NHS trusts

NHS crowding

Official guidance to hospitals says that no more than 85% of ward beds should be occupied, in order to protect patients’ safety and hygiene.

Keeping wards at 85% capacity reduces the risk of delays to procedures and operations, and helps to prevent the spread of infection. 

However, high demand over winter has meant that 137 hospital trusts (out of 152 in the UK) have run wards above this critical level.

Concern over waiting times

Of the 1,191 people in the UK surveyed by independent pollsters Censuswide, more than 545 said that their biggest concern when it came to the NHS was waiting times. These anxieties are well-founded. In January, waiting times at NHS Accident and Emergency centres hit record highs, with fewer patients than ever being seen within the target four hours . 

Over two thirds of the UK public (68%) say they would consider paying for private healthcare treatment in the future to avoid long wait times.

NHS eligibility criteria

Due to squeezed NHS budgets, many non-emergency treatments and procedures are available only to patients most in need. There are strict criteria that patients must meet in order to be eligible for many of these medical procedures. For example, treatment for varicose veins is only available to people experiencing severe pain. 

There is also a long and growing list of treatments that are not available through the NHS in some areas of the UK, leading to the so-called ‘postcode lottery’ of access to treatment. 

Common procedures such as hip replacements and knee arthroscopy are simply not available to some patients in some parts of the country.

NHS crowding

Research shows that there is a lack of information about these restrictions to treatment. 65% of people asked are unaware that some medical procedures are no longer available to them through the NHS. 

52% are unaware of the eligibility criteria for NHS operations or unsure of whether they would meet them. There is clearly a need for better information, and growing demand for high-quality and affordable alternative healthcare options.

Alternative healthcare options

Although there are serious concerns surrounding people’s access to NHS treatment, research also shows that many people are not well informed on the alternative options open to them. 53% of people have never heard of self-pay private healthcare treatment options, or do not understand the idea. There is great need for better awareness of self-pay treatment, from private providers.

Speaking on the issue, Mark Roddis, Medical Director at BMI Healthcare, said: “Some patients are struggling to get the treatments they need on the NHS and this leaves many unsure of what to do next. They don’t want to suffer on in silence and so should be advised on what other options are available to them.”

With 59 hospitals and clinics across the UK and 98.2% ratings of very good and excellent, BMI Healthcare provides accessible, quality treatment, from general medicine to highly specialist procedures.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 

or make an online enquiry.


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