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Two-thirds of UK workers turning to private healthcare services, The Exeter reports

by | Nov 13, 2023

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  • 64% of workers surveyed admitted to using at least one form of private healthcare, up from 53% in 2022
  • The proportion of UK workers who found it difficult to access NHS treatments or encountered delays in being given a GP appointment rose by 10% from 2022 (61%) to 2023 (74%)
  • Higher living costs leads to concerns about affordability of private medical cover – figures rising from 17% in 2022 to 21% in 2023

The Exeter has revealed that almost two-thirds (64%) of workers reported using at least one form of private healthcare in 2023, up from 53% the previous year. 

The figures reflect the struggles workers face in managing health concerns, with three-quarters (74%) of working people in the UK – the equivalent of 24.3m, based on ONS employment data – struggling to access NHS treatments or secure a GP appointment. The figures which come from the health and protection provider’s 2023 Health and Financial Fears report, represent a 13% rise on 2022 (61%).

The year-on-year increase has prompted more individuals to turn to private healthcare solutions which has also led to concerns about affordability. The number of consumers worried about being able to afford private alternatives rose from 17% in 2022 to 21% in 2023, underpinning the importance of seeking expert advice when considering the options available.

Though access to care remains a key concern, consumers are becoming acclimatised to NHS delays. Almost four in ten (39%) consumers cited higher NHS waiting times as a key worry in 2023. This is the same proportion that cited the issue as a problem in 2022, despite continued increases in the number of people waiting for treatment via the NHS. The number of UK consumers concerned about booking a same-day or face-to-face GP appointment has also fallen, dropping from 49% in 2022 to 37% in 2023. 

The research also revealed that when accessing treatment, consumers are only prepared to wait so long. Over half of surveyed workers (54%) – equal to 17.8m – indicated that they are unwilling to wait on an NHS list for more than three months, while 18% are not prepared to wait more than 30 days. Men and individuals aged 18-24, are the least willing to tolerate higher waiting times.

Karen Woodley, Head of Healthcare Distribution at The Exeter, commented: 

“It’s sadly no surprise that access to healthcare services continues to be one of the major concerns for UK workers this year. The NHS does a fantastic job, but it continues to face pressures that any public or private entity would struggle with, making private healthcare a valuable alternative.

“Private solutions offer many benefits, which is why it is important that UK workers consider all the options available to them to provide a safety net in the event of ill health. Despite the backdrop of rising bills, the uptake in private health insurance this year is a positive sign of these safety nets getting stronger across the UK.”

Steve Bryan, Director of Distribution and Marketing at The Exeter, added: 

“It’s positive to see more people now considering health insurance to help them manage their personal health and wellbeing. Yet, despite the increased demand for private services, there is more to do to address perceptions around affordability, particularly as household budgets continue to feel the squeeze. 

“Guided options and the flexibility of products means health insurance is more affordable than many assume and highlights the valuable role of advisers in helping workers access the cover they need at a price that suits their budget.” 

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