People needing routine procedures are being encouraged to thoroughly research their healthcare options and the costs as new figures indicate more people across Wales are paying out of their own pocket.
The Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) collects and holds a unique resource of information on the sector and says it is noticing a rise in people self-financing their care compared to using insurance policies, which do not typically cover pre-existing conditions.
New figures from PHIN – the independent, government-mandated source of information on private healthcare in the UK – show a 71 per cent increase in those opting to self-pay for private healthcare in Wales between this year and 2019 – just prior to the pandemic.
For the quarter running from April to June 2019, 1,500 people in Wales opted to self-fund private treatment, while for the corresponding months in 2021 – as the pandemic restrictions eased, 2,500 people chose this route. Self-paying is at its highest among 60 to 79-year-olds.
In regards to those paying through an insurance policy, there has been a decline of four per cent across Wales with 2,600 opting to do so in the second quarter of 2019 compared to 2,500 during the same period in 2021.
Across the wider United Kingdom, figures for the same periods show 50,000 people opted to self-fund private treatment between April and June 2019, while for the corresponding months in 2021 a total of 65,000 people chose this route. Self-paying is at its highest among 60 to 79-year-olds.
Now PHIN is encouraging people who go down the self-pay route for whatever reason to thoroughly research their care provider and payment options before accessing treatment.
And it adds that people considering self-paying should ask whether their hospital and consultant offer a ‘package price’ where costs for common private treatments are outlined from the outset.
News of the growth in people self-funding treatment comes as a new YouGov poll shows more than a quarter of people questioned in Wales (27 per cent) say the Covid-19 pandemic has made them more likely to consider using private healthcare compared to before. .
According to the survey, commissioned by PHIN, 92 per cent of those more likely to consider private healthcare believe they can be treated quicker privately for various reasons such as there being more flexible options when booking treatment.
In addition, more than seven out of ten (74 per cent of those questioned in Wales) cite concerns over NHS waiting times as a reason why they would consider going private. The latest NHS figures show 5.7 million people on NHS waiting lists UK-wide.
Affordability is a barrier to many, with 74 per cent in Wales citing concerns over the cost of private healthcare treatment. Fifty-nine per cent say the pandemic has made no difference to whether they would consider going private.
Matt James, Chief Executive of the Private Healthcare Information Network, said:
“Our poll helps shine a light on how people’s opinions are forming over healthcare since the outset of Covid-19 with more than a quarter in Wales saying that since the pandemic they are now more likely to consider going private.
“With hundreds of thousands of NHS and private elective operations lost in 2020 due to the pandemic, and waiting lists consistently in the news, it is perhaps unsurprising to see people considering self-funding private treatment even if they had not done so previously.
“We would say to all those thinking about this route to make sure they are fully informed so they make the choices that are correct for them and to avoid surprises.
“It’s important to ask the right questions about costs as well as the performance of the consultant and hospital facilities. Our website can help people research their private healthcare options, helping them navigate a confusing system, particularly those self-paying.”