Kate Andrews Kate Andrews

Normal people are paying the price for NHS failures

Going private is yet another squeeze in the cost-of-living crisis

Most people don’t need reminding about the cost-of-living crunch: food, petrol, bills and transport all provide a daily reminder that prices are going up. But today’s energy price cap rise – lifting by almost £700 – provides a headline example of the increasing costs of essential goods.. Alongside it, the National Insurance hike (a 2.5 percentage point rise split between employers and employees) and an average council tax rise of 3.5 per cent both kick in too.

But what about the essential services that are supposedly ‘free’? It seems these are getting expensive too. This week the Private Healthcare Information Network released its data on the number of NHS patients who are paying out of pocket to access private healthcare, due in large part to the long waiting lists (which existed before the pandemic and have worsened since).

Numbers are rising significantly. Nearly 67,100 patients paid to be admitted privately for treatment between July and September 2021, up 35 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. Hip and knee replacements are notably on the rise (up 165 per cent and 122 per cent respectively) as these kinds of operations were quickly cancelled during the heights of the Covid crisis, resulting in some patients waiting for years now, often in pain.

These numbers are reflected in the NHS satisfaction survey released by the British Social Attitudes Survey this week, which found overall satisfaction had fallen by a record-breaking 17 points since 2020, hovering now at just 36 per cent (Isabel Hardman has the details on Coffee House).

So far, there’s little sign of the NHS moving faster to deal with this. As I reported in February, the Covid backlog plan to give more money to the NHS was supposed to include ‘faster diagnosis standards’ for cancer (in which 75 per cent of patients are diagnosed within 28 days) by the end of this year.

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