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Health insurance and NHS waiting times

It’s no secret that NHS waiting lists are getting longer which is having a knock-on effect on patient care and our general health. You may have read a number of articles in the press recently about the systemic problems within the NHS and its ability to meet increasing demand.

Latest press articles about NHS waiting list problems

The Times logo

The Times – 12th September 2023

‘Two in five patients say health worsened on NHS waiting list’

The BBC News logo

BBC News – 10th August 2023

‘Hospital waiting list tops 7.5 million in England’

The Sky News logo

Sky News – 10th August 2023

‘NHS data: Number of people waiting to start routine hospital treatment in England at record high’

The Independent logo

The Independent – 4th August 2023

‘NHS waiting lists ‘likely to rise’ despite Tories turning to private sector to clear backlog’

These are just a handful of shocking articles from the National press in the past month which highlight the extent of the problems. Many of the articles suggest that more people are turning to private health insurance for peace of mind.

There are however still some issues between the private health sector and the NHS which are causing problems.

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According to the British Medical Association the root causes of these issues are continual pressures on services, care backlogs and crippling workforce shortages. All of this combined means that waiting times have grown to record levels, and latest BMA figures in June 2023 show:

  • Approximately 7.57 million awaiting treatment
  • Almost 3.03 million patients waiting over 18 weeks
  • 383,000 waiting over one year for treatment
  • Average waiting time is 14.3 weeks (nearly double pre-Covid levels of 7.2 weeks in April 2019)

Growing numbers of patients are now turning to private specialist treatment following NHS primary care.

For more information about this you can read the full ‘NHS backlog data analysis’ report on the British Medical Association website. This is updated monthly and will show the latest figures from the BMA and NHS.

NHS logo

About the NHS

The NHS is world renowned for providing free medical treatments to people in the United Kingdom, and outstanding care. It is also common knowledge that the NHS is more stretched than we have ever had in the past which is getting more difficult to resolve.

Cancer treatment is one of the biggest challenges in the NHS and one of the main reasons why people are turning to private health insurance for their own protection.

It is true to suggest that the current NHS waiting times are still a result of the knock-on effect of Covid and delayed appointments. GPs are still catching up with appointments that were delayed, cancelled or refused, as well as people who have been isolating and people who had avoided doctors surgeries because of the fear of Covid.

There is also those who avoided or delayed requesting GP appointments because they didn’t want to cause extra workloads on an already overloaded system.

NHS waiting times for cancer treatment and diagnosis

The NHS in general does a fantastic job of diagnosing and treating cancer patients in the UK, but there are issues in keeping track with demands. A recent report from Cancer Research UK has highlighted some of the problems and how many cancer treatment targets are being missed.

Cancer services and cancer care are a main reason for millions of people turning to private health systems and medical care. Private health insurance can offer a high level of cover and reassurance that you won’t face long waiting times for the treatment you need. This is designed to work alongside NHS services and will usually require an urgent GP referral (open referral in most cases) for your treatment.

NHS logo

NHS cancer waiting time targets

You should not have to wait for more than two weeks to see a cancer specialist where your GP suspects appearance of cancer and gives an urgent referral

Where cancer has been diagnosed or confirmed, your maximum waiting time should be 31 days from the decision being made to begin treatment

Below we have the latest figures for England based on Cancer Research UK’s June 2023 report.

Urgent suspected cancer referrals standard: Target missed

The target for this is 93% which was last met in May 2020, the latest figures showed that 80.5% of patients were seen by a specialist within 2 weeks of suspected cancer referral.

The faster diagnosis standard: Target missed

The current target of 75% of patients being diagnosed or ruled out within 28 days was introduced in 2021, but this has only been hit once since then. The target was narrowly missed by 1.5% in June 2023 with 73.5% of people diagnosed within 28 days.

62 day standard: Target missed

A target of 85% of people receiving their diagnosis and commencing treatment within 2 months (or 62 days) was last met in 2015, there was a record low for this in January 2023. The latest figures show that only 59.2% of patients received their diagnosis and started treatment in England, which is well short of the target.

31 day standard: Target missed

The target of 96% for people receiving treatment within 31 days of a doctor deciding a treatment plan was missed by 5%. In June 91.3% of people started treatment within 31 days which was the 6th worst month recorded.

Note: This data is provided by England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own target time for cancer treatment.

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One of the key reasons why we’re seeing more people opting for private health insurance is the current issue with waiting times in the NHS. Health insurance gives you Peace of Mind that you and your loved ones can receive the treatment you need quicker and in private hospital facilities.

Health insurance gives you access to 24/7 online GP services to make sure that you get diagnosed quicker and on the pathway to recovery. If you ever require surgery or medical treatment you’ll be able to bypass ever increasing NHS waiting lists.

Top reasons why health insurance improves waiting times

1) Instant access to online GP services

2) Faster diagnosis times

3) Access to top specialists and consultants

4) Less confusing paperwork

5) Top private medical facilities

Compare health insurance

The best way to compare health insurance to find the cheapest and most suitable policy for you and find of ones is to speak to a medical insurance expert. This way you can compare quotes and policies from the top health insurance providers in minutes.

Finding the best health insurance products can be difficult and confusing sometimes if you don’t know what you’re looking for. By speaking to one of our experts you can cut through all of this confusion and find the best cover far more quickly.

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What is the average cost of health insurance UK?

One of the top questions that people ask about health insurance is, ‘how much does it cost on average per month?’. According to recent research taken in 2023, the average cost of a health insurance is £86 per month for a standard personal protection policy. Health insurance policies can vary dramatically based on your age and the type of cover that you need, as well as which insurance provider you choose.

Most core health insurance policies will provide a similar level of protection and coverage for private medical treatments. You can tailor your health insurance policy to suit your needs and your budget by changing the benefits and levels of cover that you receive.

Is health insurance worth it?

Health insurance is the same as most other personal protection policies that you can buy, it is down to your own personal preference and attitude to risk. The other major issue is whether you can afford to pay for health insurance every month because it can be expensive.

If you ever need to claim on your health insurance policy then the benefits can be life changing and even lifesaving. The medical treatments and care that is provided by the NHS in the UK is among the best in the world, especially for chronic illness. Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact that the NHS is struggling to meet demand and that the levels of private medical treatment are generally far superior to public health treatments.

Example: If you needed knee surgery then you would have to wait for months or even years on the NHS, whereas private health insurance will give you access to better treatment, leading specialists, and within weeks usually. Rehabilitation and therapies cover that are also provided by most health insurance policies can be invaluable, especially if you are self-employed for example.

Is private health insurance better than the NHS?

Currently, the biggest issue with the NHS is the waiting times for any consultations and access to treatments, because of how stretched its resources are. The NHS provides some of the best care in the world for chronic illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, MS, epilepsy, and asthma.

Health insurance is designed to complement and support the treatment that you can receive on the National Health Service, as well as giving you access to specialists for other medical issues such as musculoskeletal issues and cancer treatment, which are also the top reasons for claims on health insurance cover.

The main issues with NHS treatment currently and reasons for people taking out health insurance:

  • Long waiting lists for consultations, results and treatment
  • Overcrowded hospitals
  • Lack of beds
  • Shortages of NHS nurses and doctors
  • Some treatments not available (especially cancer treatments)
  • Specialists only available on private health insurance
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Health Insurance vs NHS - iam|INSURED

What is the best health insurance UK?

There are lots of different policy options when considering health insurance as well as your choice of several main insurance providers. The other consideration is whether you don’t take out health insurance and opt for receiving treatment on the NHS or paying for treatment yourself as and when you need it.

We’re constantly reviewing the top health insurance companies in the UK to find out which provide the best service, value, products and treatments. Based on our most recent reviews we suggest the following as the best health insurance UK 2023:

  1. Aviva Healthcare Solutions (Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5.0)
  2. BUPA Health Insurance (Trustpilot score: 4.0 out of 5.0)
  3. Vitality Personal Healthcare (Trustpilot score: 3.9 out of 5.0)
  4. Exeter Health+ (Trustpilot score: 4.4 out of 5.0)
  5. AXA PPP (Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5.0)
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Best Private Health Insurance 2023 - iam|INSURED

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