There are few people living in the United Kingdom who wouldn’t consider themselves fortunate to have access to the NHS.

As our National Health Service, it engenders great pride and huge levels of good will. For evidence, you only have to reflect on all the hand-drawn rainbows that adorned windows across the country during the pandemic or the heart-warming weekly round of applause offered up as a ‘Clap for Carers’.

However, as well as shining a spotlight on many positive aspects of the NHS, the intensely difficult experience of dealing with Covid-19 also highlighted and exacerbated many of its existing challenges. Patient capacity, waiting times, response times and staffing levels have all been exposed as problematic areas – and continue to be so despite the pressures of the pandemic easing into 2022.

Private Medical Insurance (PMI) is certainly not a substitute for the NHS, but at a time when the service is under such pressure, it can provide individuals with a way of accessing the healthcare they need in a timeframe that cannot be achieved under the care of an under-pressure NHS. Here are three important ways that PMI can enhance your care:

Quicker progress

Private medical facilities don’t support the emergency care offered by accident and emergency departments, but PMI can facilitate a speedier journey to the treatment you need.

After initial assessment, patients with PMI have the option to transfer to a private provider for further treatment. This can also include transfer to private wings of NHS hospitals, where you can access the expertise of clinical specialists who sometimes work in private practice alongside their NHS role.

Without PMI, patients can currently expect to experience higher-than-expected waiting times as a result of the huge demand on hospital resources. Indeed, the ratio of patients waiting more than four hours between their arrival and either departure, admission or transfer hit a record high of 38.8% in December 2021.

Faster treatment

Patients with a diagnosis who have PMI benefit from far quicker access to medical professionals on average. It can be a matter of just days or weeks before you are able to schedule a consultation with a medical specialist and waiting times for procedures and surgeries are typically far shorter than those experienced via the NHS.

Accelerating the treatment process can play a significant role in not only tackling the immediate physical or mental discomfort associated with a medical problem, but also in helping to reduce the anxiety that waiting can trigger.

Within the NHS, the numbers of people waiting for treatment and the length of waiting times are both subject to long-term increases, and the issue has been exacerbated by the pandemic. As of July 2021, almost 6.1 million people were on a waiting list for consultant-led hospital treatment, which compares with a figure of 4.5 million recorded in December 2019. In addition, the number of people waiting over a year for treatment hit a peak of 436,000 in March 2021 – up from just over 1,000 in mid-2019.

For cancer, where rapid treatment can be crucial to improving a patient’s prognosis, pressure on resource has also led to an increase in waiting times in recent years. Although GPs are referring patients in greater numbers, in November 2021, only 77.4% saw a consultant within two weeks against an NHS target of 93%.

Better access

There is no doubting the world-class expertise within the NHS, but that resource is stretched much more thinly than it is within private medical settings, where patient-to-staff ratios are far lower and there is far more available capacity.

This additional level of resource means that patients with PMI cover are typically afforded a higher level of care throughout each stage of their journey, from admission through to consultation, treatment, after-care and discharge.

While the NHS registered a 21.5% increase in the number of hospital staff in the decade to October 2021, demand on the service also grew, placing ever more pressure on available resource. The Health Centre, an independent charity, highlights that even at the outset of the pandemic, the UK had fewer practising physicians than the majority of OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) as well as “high levels of bed occupancy and very little spare capacity”.

PMI: Augmenting NHS excellence

The NHS is an institution close to the hearts of the population, and while there are no doubts over the commitment of its people, there are growing concerns over the level of care that an under-pressure NHS can deliver. Indeed, the British Social Attitudes Survey found that dissatisfaction levels with how the NHS is being run rose from 25% in 2020 to 41% in 2021.

In these times, Private Medical Insurance becomes increasingly valuable as a means to circumnavigate the under-pressure health service, accelerate access to treatment, and alleviate the pressure and anxiety of waiting for the care you need.


The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice, medical advice or other and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.