politics

Demand for 'self-funded heart operations surges' as NHS waiting lists grow


The NHS waiting list in England has ballooned to 5.3 million, including nearly 4,000 patients who have been waiting for two years, and it’s leading people to pay for their own surgery, it has been reported

A waiting room filled with patients
The NHS waiting list has ballooned to 5.3 million

More patients are opting to pay for expensive life-saving surgery because of crippling NHS waiting lists, it has been reported.

So-called “self funded operations” have risen since the beginning of the pandemic, according to private providers.

And some patients faced with lengthy waiting lists say they have to pay for heart operations that can cost as much as £20,000.

The NHS waiting list in England has ballooned to 5.3 million, including nearly 4,000 patients who have been waiting for two years.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that when he took the job in June, officials warned him the backlog could grow to 13 million.








Some patients are paying thousands of pounds for their operations
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Image:

Getty Images)



The Mail reports that charities say increasing numbers of patients who have been waiting for months are now choosing to go private “as a last resort”, while some are considering taking out loans.

Britain’s largest private hospital group, HCA, said there had been an increase in “higher acuity care” since the beginning of the Covid outbreak, including a 20 per cent increase in “self-funded cardiothoracic inpatient procedures’.

This includes operations on the heart and chest such as heart bypass operations.

The group also reported a 30 per cent increase in self-funded neuroscience procedures, like those carried out on the spinal cord and brain.

According to Spire Healthcare, the UK’s second largest private provider, the number of enquiries from self-pay patients was up by 29 per cent from March 2020 to March this year.

Urology, which covers treatment of the prostate, bladder and kidneys, and gastroenterology – the stomach and digestive system, were said to have seen the biggest demand.




Healthcare sources told the publication that patients were also increasingly willing to pay for cancer care.

Liz Heath, a consultant and author for the LaingBuisson market intelligence service, was reported to have said its research showed that NHS delays were the biggest driver for patients deciding to pay for their treatment.

She said: “There is definitely a relationship between NHS waiting times – not just for surgery, for diagnostic tests – and people seeking to self-fund.

“People are making their own decisions around their quality of life and their certainty of treatment. The uncertainty is difficult.”

It comes after former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Sunday Times the delays were ‘incredibly scary’ and said pressure to cut waiting times could lead to corners being cut and patients at risk.

He said: “My biggest fear is that we will end up with such huge pressure to reduce waiting lists that we will lose the focus on safety and quality.”









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