NHS waiting times ‘driving people to turn to private treatment’

Growing numbers of patients are paying for private treatment to beat rationing and delays for treatment imposed by the cash-strapped NHS.

People who do not have insurance are increasingly paying up to £14,880 for operations such as a hip or knee replacement or cataract removal, a report reveals.

Profit-driven hospital firms are experiencing 15 to 25% year-on-year rises in the number of uninsured “self-payers”, with the increase mainly driven by long waiting times to undergo non-urgent surgery in NHS hospitals. Patients are using their savings or taking out loans to pay for their treatment.

The biggest increases have been in those paying for procedures to relieve disabling condition, interventions that are increasingly hard for people in England to obtain on the NHS without a long wait.

“There’s no doubt that NHS waiting lists are at the heart of this growth in self-pay,” said Keith Pollard, the chief executive of Intuition Communications, which undertook the research.

The report said: “Providers have noted a direct correlation at a local level between reported excessive waiting times for surgery and demand for self-pay surgery.”

The total number of patients in England waiting for planned hospital care within the maximum 18 weeks guaranteed under the Referral to Treatment scheme exceeded 4 million in July for the first time in decade, soon after NHS England and ministers controversially relaxed the target.



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