NHS waiting times are the UK’s biggest healthcare concern

Earlier this week, BBC analysis reported that the number of patients on hospital wards in England has been at unsafe levels at nine in 10 NHS trusts this winter. Hospitals are under guidance to have no more than 85% of beds occupied in order to reduce the risk of infections and delays. However, with increased demand from both UK and overseas patients, 137 out of 152 hospital trusts have been above that level since the start of December.

A poll by Ipsos MORI revealed today that three-quarters of the UK want to see charges increased for people coming from abroad as a way of raising more money for the NHS.

Now, new research conducted independently on behalf of the UK’s largest private hospital group, BMI Healthcare, 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 research, surveying 1,191 respondents, concluded that an overwhelming majority (71%) have concerns about seeking medical treatment within the UK.

The research also revealed that the public is not aware of the painful list of conditions no longer available in areas on the NHS. Almost two-thirds (65%) of people in Britain are not aware that some medical procedures are no longer available to them on the NHS, raising concern that many in the UK are not aware that they may not be eligible for certain treatments on the NHS, including common procedures such as hip replacements and knee arthroscopy.

Furthermore, over half (52%) are either not aware or not sure about needing to meet strict criteria before being eligible for certain operations on the NHS, including treatment for varicose veins and hernias, and sight-saving surgery for cataracts. These strict extreme thresholds mean that many people whose quality of life may be is severely damaged by these common conditions are still not eligible for the operations. Despite the impact on the UK public, few are well informed about the criteria and how it will affect them.

Due to anxieties over waiting times, the study found that 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.

Mike Roddis, Medical Director at BMI Healthcare said: “The NHS simply cannot afford to cater for all ailments, unfortunately. It, therefore, has ‘Procedures of Limited Clinical Value’ (POLCV), otherwise known as restricted procedures and these vary from area to area, depending on funding, which is why the notion of a ‘postcode lottery’ has come about. This means that certain patients will need to meet exceptional circumstances to be eligible for treatment on the NHS and in some areas, those in need of hip and knee replacements will only be eligible for treatment if their joint has completely collapsed.

“Some patients are therefore 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.”

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