How Many UK Residents Have Turned to Private Health Insurance?

With NHS waiting times extending, more and more people are looking to private healthcare as an alternative. Private healthcare can offer additional benefits that the NHS cannot, but it of course comes at a cost. Even so, people turning to private healthcare for their medical treatment and care is increasing.

What percentage of the UK uses private healthcare?

According to Statista’s Consumer Insights, 22% of UK adults now have private healthcare, which has nearly doubled since 2019.

Other research by YouGov has shown that one in eight British people have used private healthcare within the last year for themselves or a member of their immediate family. A further 27% of people said they were considering using private healthcare instead of the NHS for treatment, but decided against it due to financial or other reasons.

The same research from YouGov showed that 33% of those that used private healthcare last year did so for the first time, having previously only ever used the NHS for medical treatments. Another 48% said they would usually use the NHS, although this wasn’t the first time they had turned to private healthcare.

What issues with the NHS are causing people to use private healthcare?

One of the main issues with the NHS that are pushing people to use private healthcare is with extensive wait times. YouGov’s survey shows that 53% of respondents cited being seen more quickly as their primary reason for using private treatment.

The NHS was under strain even before the pandemic, but the past few years has seen even more pressure being put on services. With lockdowns over the pandemic, severe backlogs have built up of people waiting for treatment and medical care. This has contributed to the longer wait times that are now present.

For example, the wait time for a knee or hip replacement on the NHS is around 13.5 weeks on average. Many people will therefore choose to pay for private treatment in order to have their surgery sooner, which will likely mean they will be able to get mobile again and stop being in pain.

What are the advantages of private healthcare?

As well as much quicker wait times – a knee replacement via private healthcare can take between four to six weeks, less than half the time of the NHS – there are also other advantages to using private healthcare.

Some people feel that private healthcare provides a better quality of service. Whilst both the NHS and private healthcare hold high standards, private healthcare has the advantage of servicing fewer patients, so can offer a more personalised level of care. This can often be an advantage for those who are undergoing a serious procedure and would appreciate the extra attention.

Another benefit of private healthcare is that often users will have their own room, rather than being on a ward with other people. Additionally, there is often extra, more up-to-date facilities available when using private healthcare rather than the NHS.

Private healthcare often provides users with a choice for the type of care they receive. The NHS will be restricted in what it can provide, whereas private healthcare can offer more specialised procedures to those that are willing to pay for them. They usually can also provide extra tests and screenings that can help patients feel more at ease.

How much does private healthcare cost in the UK?

Private healthcare insurance for a family of four can cost anywhere between £700 and £1,800 per year. For a single person, it can cost anywhere between £468 and £1,800 per year. The cost will vary depending on your age and health conditions and will increase every year as the users age.

Some people choose to pay for individual treatments as and when they need them, instead of paying for private healthcare insurance. The costs for private treatments and procedures can be expensive and will vary depending on what you have done and any extras you opt in for, such as choosing a private room. However, it can sometimes be more cost-effective than paying for ongoing private health insurance.

For example, a private knee or hip replacement can cost around £12,000. An MRI scan can cost around £1,200 and a CT scan will cost around £870. Cataract surgery can cost around £2,400.

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