There has been a rise in the number of patients who are paying to be seen by a private casualty doctor, reports suggest.
It follows figures showing waiting times at A&E departments across the country have increased, with a quarter of a million patients waiting for more than four hours in November.
According to The Times, this has forced many patients to turn to private casualty departments which can charge from £100 per visit.
Gill Macleod, who is in charge of private healthcare company HCA’s urgent care services, said she had seen a huge increase in demand to see a private A&E doctor.
She added that the unit was seeing 1,600 patients a month and expected December’s figures to be even higher.
Some private companies, such as Casualty First in North London, have started leafleting local homes in an attempt to attract more patients.
Casualty First’s chief executive Caroline Fox told The Times: “NHS A&Es are under pressure with long waiting times and growing demand but for those with minor ailments, patients can choose to come to Casualty First where the average wait is 10 minutes. NHS is great but it is going to get busier with an ageing population.”
However, Taj Hassan, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said if someone is sick “my strong advice is to come to an [NHS] emergency department”.
“You may become very sick very quickly and that could either harm yourself or harm your children,” he warned. “You might have to wait but I would always say it’s better to stick with the NHS.”