Universal and free healthcare

So why do people go private?

Universal and free healthcare

The first free, universal healthcare system in the world, the NHS is a great institution that has come to the aid of millions of people since its inception. With the increasing demands of a growing population and more expensive medicines, however, waiting times and standards of treatment have deteriorated to some degree.

While the majority of people in the UK opt to stick with the NHS, between 8 and 11 percent of the UK population pay for private insurance. So what should you do as an expat when you move to the UK?

One of the biggest issues facing citizens and expats in the UK is the waiting times for treatment. The NHS promises patients the legal right to start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks from referral unless “clinically appropriate”. But meeting this demand is not always achievable, with figures recently dropping to the worst in 7 years .

There are particular issues with the NHS’s approach to mental health, with the closure of 2,100 beds and budget cuts of up to 8.5%  since 2011. This is a problem that is particularly evident among the expat community, as issues such as stress and homesickness mean that they risk facing higher levels of depression and anxiety .

These budget cuts and the perceived lack of support given to those who suffer from mental health problems shows why citizens and expats often opt more for private insurance. With up to 18 week waiting times to seek help, private insurance can provide assistance faster than the NHS is able to. Cigna Global , for example, offer mental health treatment as long as you have been referred by a medical practitioner.

For expats there is another concern with the NHS, and that is whether or not you are entitled to treatment from it. For many expats there may be a period of time where private insurance will be necessary until eligible for free or subsidised healthcare.

The NHS is a fantastic institution and the mission statement of a universal health service free at the point of use is a noble one. For those who can afford it, however, private insurance is seen to have the edge on its public counterpart.

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