Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why people opt for private healthcare: The areas where NHS healthcare falls short of the mark

Sir, Dr Mark Porter is right to highlight improvements in the NHS over the past decade ("Is it time to ditch private medical insurance?", Jan 9 ) but misses several vital points about healthcare in the UK today.

First, we are living in a world where people are used to and expect access to the products or services they need when they want them. Healthcare should be no different, which is why eight out of ten Britons feel that 18 weeks is still too long to wait for NHS treatment, with the majority believing that under one month is a more appropriate target.

Second, people today want choice and peace of mind. They don't want to be left struggling with a complex system or having to travel miles to get the hospital or consultant they want. This is why almost eight out of ten people say that, even if the NHS were to meet its targets, they would not cancel their private cover, and is why the number of people choosing private medical insurance rose to more than six million in 2008.

Finally, the NHS's problems with superbugs such as MRSA and C. difficile should not be played down. To say that you should be fine, if you are a "healthy patient" in a "decent hospital", is small comfort to seven out of ten Britons who fear that they or their loved ones might contract a superbug while in an NHS hospital. People simply shouldn't have to worry about superbugs at all. This is why hospital cleanliness represents the biggest reason why people choose health insurance, with about two out of three taking it out because they want to be treated in a clean, superbug-free hospital.

Dr Natalie-Jane Macdonald

Managing Director, Bupa UK Health Insurance

-The non-bright lamp

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