NHS crisis forces patients to go private to see a GP

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The NHS winter crisis has triggered a fivefold increase in patients resorting to private health cover for primary care such as GP and dentistry appointments, new figures show. 

Health insurers Vitality, Aviva and Simplyhealth all reported a spike in private GP consultations.

Vitality, which has 900,000 customers, said claims for primary care services, including GP appointments, had risen nearly fivefold, 374pc, between 2018 and 2022.

It comes as former health secretary Sajid Javid said charging some patients for GP appointments and other services was “crucial” if the NHS is to survive.

Vitality also said more than half (55pc) of its health insurance claims in the year to September 2022 were for primary care, up from 32pc in 2019 and 10pc in 2015.

Private dental appointments were up 411pc, while physiotherapy appointments rose 343pc.

The company said the rises were caused by the difficulty in accessing these services for free via the NHS.

Aviva, another insurer, said it has seen the number of people registering for private app-based GP services rise by around 70pc between December 2021 and December 2022.

There were around 8,000 consultations booked each month last year, up from 5,800 a month in 2021.

Appointments made for children rose sharply from November to December 2022. The most common reasons for booking private GP consultations in the past year were skin complaints and muscular and joint complaints.

Simplyhealth also confirmed a shift in private insurance being used increasingly for GP appointments.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: “It’s no surprise to see those who can afford it turning to private healthcare. This is yet another sign that the front door to the NHS is broken.”

Steve Brine, a Conservative MP and the chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, suggested the influential committee could investigate the “impact of this move towards using private services on the NHS.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working hard to tackle the covid backlogs and have set an expectation that patients who need a GP appointment within two weeks can get one, with urgent cases being seen the same day.

“There are 80,000 more general practice appointments available every working day compared to last year because there are almost 2,300 more doctors to see patients.

“We are growing the GP workforce, have a record number of doctors in training and we have recruited over 21,000 additional staff into general practice.”

Source: telegraph.co.uk