One in eight Britons turned to private healthcare in the last 12 months

Lottie ThorntonResearch Executive
Beth MannResearch Executive
April 17, 2023, 9:46 AM GMT+0

The median private healthcare spend was £500

With NHS services both locally and nationally steadily deteriorating in the eyes of Britons over the last couple of years, and coming under serious pressure this winter, a new YouGov survey reveals that one in eight Britons (13%) used private healthcare for themselves or a member of their immediate household in the last year.

The survey, conducted in early March, found a further quarter (27%) saying they considered doing so, but decided against it on financial or other grounds. Most Britons (57%) say they didn’t consider going private in the first place.

For a third (33%) of those who used private healthcare in the last year, it was the first time they had ever done so.

A further half (48%) say that while it was not their first time using private healthcare, they would typically use the NHS. Only 15% of private healthcare users in the last year say they typically or always go private rather than using the NHS.

Why did Britons turn to private healthcare?

The main advantage of private healthcare seems to have been speed, with over half saying the top reason they went private in order to be seen quicker (53%). A further 18% say that it was the only option available to them.

The quality of care seems to have been less of a factor, with only 15% saying the main reason was because of the better services provided through private routes.

Speed was consistently the top reason for going private regardless of how many times a respondent had used private healthcare. Those doing so for the first time were more likely to do so than others because it was because it was the only option available (23%), while those who generally or always use private healthcare over the NHS had a higher likelihood of citing the better service as the main reason (22%).

In terms of the type of healthcare people were accessing, non-emergency appointments (such as scans, tests and operations) were by far the most common, at 48%.

Fewer private healthcare users relied on the service for a minor illness or injury (17%) or a private routine appointment (20%). One in ten used the private service in the case of an emergency (10%).

How have Britons been paying for private healthcare?

Overall, at least 56% of those who accessed private healthcare made some form of out-of-pocket payment as part of it, including 29% who paid with disposable income, 24% using savings, 6% from borrowed money and 2% from taking out a loan (figures do not sum as some respondents will have paid through more than one method).

One in four (25%) paid through a workplace private healthcare scheme, and 14% were funding their own private insurance scheme.

The median private healthcare spend in the last year was £500.

Explore more data & articles