Going Private

Why do people use private healthcare?

Industry data have shown, particularly since the pandemic, ever increasing demand for private healthcare – of all kinds.

We wanted to understand what is driving the increased demand, so we asked people why they choose private healthcare, allowing them to select all reasons which applied.

The most common single reason for choosing private healthcare is difficulty with accessing NHS care – nearly half of people (46%) cited this as a factor in their decision to use private healthcare.

Why do people use private healthcare?

Which of the following reasons best explains why you have used private healthcare? Please select all that apply.

Three major themes emerge from these answers:

  • Difficulties with accessing NHS care – an inability to get an appointment, the tendency for NHS appointments to be cancelled, or not run on time.
  • Insurance coverage – that people have the option to access.
  • The quality of care – more personalised care, the ability to get face-to-face appointments, the sense that quality of care in the private sector is superior.

One in four people (24%) said that ‘It is easier to book private healthcare appointments’ and this was the next most popular choice. This may relate to both the actual ease of booking (e.g., online systems) but also how quickly appointments are available compared to the NHS. A smaller number (12%) of people said that they went private because ‘My NHS appointments were postponed or cancelled’.

“So, my friend had had a scan; he actually paid without health insurance… He’d gone for the NHS – couldn’t get anywhere. He said, it was like 30/40 weeks just for waiting. And he’s just basically telling me to go private.

Young man, South West, private healthcare user

One in five people (21%) said that they used private healthcare because they have private health insurance, either paid for themselves or through their work.

Others choose private healthcare because they think that the quality of care may be higher. One in five (19%) say ‘I can get more personalised care in the private healthcare system’, that ‘I think that the care available privately is higher quality’ (18%) or ‘I needed particular expertise, only available privately’ (13%) as reasons for choosing private healthcare.

Interestingly, these results are consistent across different demographics, social grades and geographic regions. While there are minor differences, people have remarkably consistent reasons for choosing private healthcare.

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