More than one-third (37%) of the UK has accessed some form of private healthcare since the start of the pandemic, a thinktank has suggested.
According to a survey of 2,014 people, led by the Institute For Public Policy Research (IPPR) and YouGov, the most common reason for going private was to avoid waiting lists (41%).
This rate was far higher among people considered to be upper middle, middle and lower middle class (44%), than among people from a working class background (26%).
The IPPR flagged that it was ‘to avoid this two-tier system’ the Aneurin Bevan first founded the NHS.
They also found that 34% of all people surveyed said they found it difficult to access the NHS, jumping to around half (51%) for people with a health condition that impacts their day-to-day life.
The findings come as part of an IPPR report – Healthcare and prosperity: The NHS at 75 – into accessing healthcare, with a particular focus on the impact of disruption to healthcare.
The report said: ‘[The NHS] can no longer function as an ‘illness’ service – that treats acute need, reactively, only once it emerges. Our health, society, equality, and economy demand it evolves into a ‘wellness service’: one that proactively identifies need, that delivers significantly more care in the communities we live, that focuses on prevention, and which provides us support throughout our experience of living with one or more long-term conditions.’
Progress towards this has been slow, it warned, suggesting that the NHS is ‘struggling’ to shift towards care models designed for managing chronic conditions despite its commitment to personalised care.
The IPPR called for more integrated primary and community services in order to deliver on a ‘wellness service’, with greater funding poured into primary care and public health where it currently ‘over-invests on acute care’.
Commenting on the report, chief executive of NHS Confederation Matthew Taylor said: ‘The NHS has been held back from delivering even more by having too few staff, inadequate social care provision, and a lack of capital investment. This survey from the IPPR which finds that a third of British adults are struggling to access healthcare services, bears out the consequences of this. It is clear that demand has long outstripped supply.’
He added: ‘The economic case for investment is inarguable. Not only does every £1 of NHS investment result in a £4 return for the economy but can help prevent patients facing potentially ruinous financial insecurity, by helping them access care faster.’
Yesterday, former NICE chair Sir David Haslam called for a ‘short-term reboot’ for the NHS in the form of a one-off £40bn extra a year investment for four-to-five years.
He said that prioritising primary and social care would help ‘prevent a whole system collapse’.
Similarly, former Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt warned that ‘pouring’ money into and focussing solely on hospitals will hinder the NHS’ and ICBs’ attempts to improve preventative care.