The number of people considering paying for private medical insurance or for treatment on a self-pay basis has “rocketed” since the onset of COVID-19, research suggests.
While many people’s personal finances have taken a hit by the pandemic, an estimated 27% of people across the country are now likely to consider paying for private treatment or insurance.
That is almost double the number of people who would have done so before the pandemic, when just 15% of the population would have thought about going down down the private route.
The research, based on a poll of over 1,000 people by Consumer Intelligence on behalf of Equipsme, suggests that younger people are the most likely to consider paying privately for healthcare, with 30% of respondents aged 18-34 answering this way, compared to 22% of respondents aged 55 and over.
Concerns about waiting times for specialist treatment was the top reason given by those who said they would consider health insurance or paying a private hospital directly for treatment.
Some 76% of people say they are now concerned about NHS waiting lists, and 67% are worried about the NHS’s ability to deal with non-urgent and non-COVID-19-related illnesses and ailments.
Matthew Reed, Managing Director at healthcare provider Equipsme, said that people are “inevitably” thinking more about their health, and prioritising how they look after themselves and their families.
He said: “The result is that interest in PMI is actually rising – which at a time when many are facing financial hardship is pretty remarkable.”
The research comes following a warning issued by the NHS Confederation that the COVID-19 crisis could see the number of people waiting for NHS treatment double to 10 million by the end of the year due to a backlog of cases, maintaining social distancing, and staffing problems.
Reed said: “If we’ve learnt anything over the last three months we’ve learnt how much people love and value the NHS – but they’re also worried about it.
“More than three quarters are concerned about waiting times as it tries to catch up with itself after COVID-19. PMI is a way of protecting themselves and their families – and protecting the NHS by taking some of the pressure off it.”
The survey also showed health insurance rising up the wish list of employee benefits – falling behind pensions and flexible working, but ahead of gym membership, childcare vouchers and a company phone.
Reed said: “Employers in particular can take note that this is something that people are increasingly interested in. Now more than ever we know how important it is to protect your workforce, and look after the people that make your business wheels go round. The working world has changed for good, and beer-and-pizza benefits in kind just aren’t going to cut it anymore.”