Following years of Conservative government mismanagement and un-resourcing of the rightly-venerated National Health Service, the UK is seeing a dramatic rise in the number and usage rates of private GP practices.
From The Guardian:
Patients are paying up to £550 an hour to see private GPs amid frustration at the delays many face getting an appointment with an NHS family doctor.
Whilst the NHS has always had unfortunate exceptions, flaws and inequities in provision it now feels more fragmented than ever before to me. Probably the most critical issue it that it appears to have become essentially unbearable to work in much of the healthcare system.
Resignation rates skyrocket as the workplace conditions become increasingly horrendous, incompatible with living a reasonable life. From those who remain, we lose hundreds of thousands of working days per month to mental health related NHS staff absences. Pay dwindles in comparison to comparable opportunities. Recruitment rates are far too low to make up for any of this, even if one could safely trade an experienced professional for a fresh graduate, the pipeline of which now in any case risks being held back due to the lack of experienced staff available to supervise on-the-job-training. And then the reliance until now upon foreign-born healthcare workers has come back to bite the country whilst on one hand we bemoan the lack of staff in healthcare and beyond and on the other hand create a deliberately hostile environment for anyone who could possibly be construed as “not British”.
The end result is over 130,000 open NHS vacancies.
Amongst other issues, this leads to frequent challenges for members of the public in accessing the skeleton-staffed services that remain. This has now got to the state where fully 1 in 8 Britons have paid for private health services in the last year. 27% of Britons considered doing so but ended up not doing so, in many cases because it’s expensive. Few people can realistically afford the more than £500 per GP appointment figure that we started off with above.
So all in all, 40% of the population has at least had the thought that they may have to turn to private healthcare in a country previously famed for its visionary universal healthcare system. The vision - admittedly never fully realised - was a service “free at the point of delivery”, such that we’d never have to individually ponder to what extent we should trade off our health against our wealth.