Getting the best healthcare may increasingly be determined by ability to pay, says Institute for Public Policy Research.
Almost two million people have opted for private healthcare since the pandemic because they have been unable to access the NHS, a new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) states.
The report, 'The State of Health and Care 2022" says increasing numbers of people are resorting to paying for treatment, rather than face long waits, creating an increasingly “two-tier system”.
Key findings of the report:
A poll for the think tank found 31 per cent of adults found it difficult to access NHS services during the crisis - the equivalent of 16 million people.
Of these, 12 per cent said they used some sort of private healthcare instead - an estimated two million adults, according to the poll of 3,466 people.
Those who cannot afford to pay for private healthcare are at risk of being left to “put up or shut up”, the IPPR said.
The research also found considerable concern about difficulty in seeing a GP following an expansion in “remote” consultations by phone and video. Such measures were introduced around the time of the first lockdown. In recent months, ministers and health officials have insisted that those who wish to see a GP in person should be able to choose to do so. But the numbers of patients securing a face-to-face appointment are still dropping.
best quality increasingly depends on ability to pay
The IPPR said the health system was becoming more like the education system, where getting the best quality increasingly depends on ability to pay.
The report states that the pandemic has “rapidly accelerated an existing trend of decline in access and outcomes."
Waiting list "fast passes"
The authors wrote: “As access to, and quality of, care declines, more people are supplementing their entitlement to public health and care with paid-for products: private insurance, health tourism, direct payments and 'waiting list fast passes'.”
The research also found that 17 per cent of respondents said that they would pay privately if they know that they would have to wait more than 18 weeks for treatment.
What options do patients have?
Without private health insurance, funding private treatment frequently means utilising savings. However, now a new service provided by Loans4ops gives advice and assistance to patients requiring access to funds specifically for private surgery.
James Rose, MD of Loans4ops says, "We set up Loans4ops with the specific aim of helping people secure affordably-priced loans with safe, sensible and ethical terms, so as to allow as many people as possible to access private treatment within the independent healthcare sector". He goes onto say, "We help patients to obtain the funding that they need to get rapid access to private surgery and to allow them to take control of their own healthcare needs."
Principal research fellow Chris Thomas said: “People aren't opting out of the National Health Service because they've stopped believing in it as the best and fairest model of healthcare.
“Rather, those who can afford it are being forced to go private by the consequences of austerity and the pandemic on NHS access and quality - and those without the funds are left to 'put up or shut up'.