Public anxious about NHS waiting times

New research reveals high levels of anxiety surrounding NHS waiting times, and a growing public desire for alternative healthcare options, sparking a need for greater awareness of the choices available.

New statistics reveal that almost half of the British public (46%) reported NHS waiting times as their biggest healthcare concern, but over half (53%) have never heard of or do not understand the idea of self-pay.

The 2016 research, conducted independently on behalf of BMI Healthcare, surveying 1,191 respondents, concluded that an overwhelming majority (71%) have concerns about seeking medical treatment within the UK.

Despite anxieties about treatment within the NHS, awareness of alternative options available is critically low. Of those surveyed, over a third (38%) have never heard of the concept of self-pay healthcare and a further 15% do not understand what it means. However, over two thirds of the UK public (68%) would consider paying for private healthcare treatment in the future to avoid long wait times. The figures highlight the growing demand for alternative options and the need for greater awareness of these options.

Figures also highlight that after waiting times, the public’s biggest healthcare concern is success and speed of recovery (36%), followed closely by infection control (35%).

As well as a lack of understanding of the self-pay market, the public have reported not being aware of treatments that may be unavailable to them on the NHS. Almost two thirds (65%) are either unsure or unaware that some common medical procedures are not available to them, for example in some parts of the UK procedures like hernias, cataract and varicose vein procedures are not routinely funded by the NHS. Nearly half of the public (42%) believe that they would have to be in severe pain before the NHS would react, and a further 12% believe they would need to be in the worst pain possible before the NHS would see them.

Peter Snuggs, Director of Commercial relations at BMI Healthcare says, “there is no doubting the NHS remains a fantastic institution and in the most part provides comprehensive and quality care however, our research highlights growing concerns over how long people are waiting for treatment and therefore, the importance of informing the public on the alternative healthcare options available to them . The public is calling out for these options by saying they would look to private treatment options in the future.

“According to Laing Buisson, there has been an estimated 34% increase in self-pay treatments since 2012 and although the self-pay market is growing, there remains a large lack of awareness amongst the UK public, meaning patients aren’t fully clued up on the options available to them.”

Mr David Houlihan-Burne, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at BMI Bishops Wood Hospital adds, "Self pay options are absolutely essential for patients to have the choice to speed up their treatment. Because of the rising costs of private medical insurance, more and more patients, particularly the retired, are putting money into savings, building their own health fund, and using this money, when required, for their health. They are funding their assessment and treatment themselves from this ‘health fund’. I am increasingly seeing more patients who are choosing this route due to long waiting times and cancellations on the NHS, particularly for diagnostics.”

“These statistics reveal that more needs to be done to educate the public on the options they have available to access quality care. There’s a belief that the NHS will always be there for those in need but the simple reality is that the NHS cannot continue to meet the ever increasing demand for healthcare services and the public need to be prepared for this, with an alternative route when needed,” adds Peter Snuggs. “As healthcare professionals, we need to ensure that we’re doing the best for our patients, are making them aware of all options available and are advising them individually on their best route to care.”

Categories: Health

Date: 6th February 2017