Private patients with medical insurance cover costing NHS up to £1 billion

Many patients with private medical insurance choose to go with the NHS for pre-planned operations despite paying premiums.Private patients with medical insurance cover costing NHS up to £1 billionBut many GPs do not suggest the idea to patients because they feel it would be “disloyal” to do so.

The report, by market research firm Laing & Buisson, estimates that the NHS spends up to £1 billion a year on treatment which could be funded by private medical insurance.

About £360 million is spent on pre-planned operations and the remainder on emergency treatment.

HCA International, which runs six private hospitals including The Portland in London, commissioned the report.

Keith Biddlestone, HCA International’s group commercial director, said: “Some people in the NHS feel it is disloyal to suggest people use their private medical insurance.

“But if I was chief executive of the NHS I would kick off a campaign for staff to encourage patients to do so, to reduce some of the strain.”

GPs should ask if patients about to undergo pre-planned operations had private medical cover, he said. Hospital staff could also ask those admitted as emergencies if they wanted to switch to private patient wards, when they were medically comfortable.

But Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said once people started using their cover their premiums increased.

She said: “The NHS works because it pools risk across 60 million people and removes fear.”

Dr Natalie-Jane MacDonald, managing director of Bupa Health and Wellbeing, said: “We want our members to get value from their PMI and we encourage them to use their policies – for example, we don’t have steep no-claims discounts which act as a major disincentive to making claims.

“And we have seen an increasing tendency for people taking out policies and using them – in contrast to older generations, who were more likely to see it as a ‘rainy day’ option.”

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