How much public money goes to the private sector, and how much of a problem should we have with it?
Each year the Department of Health and Social Care spends a lot of money on the NHS.
£140 billion, to be precise.
But, contrary to what you might expect, not all of that money goes on public services.
Recent estimates suggest that around £9.2bn of NHS funding was spent on private services in the 2018/19 financial year.
“No privatisation on my watch.”
It’s a significant chunk, and you won’t be surprised to hear that such spending has attracted sharp criticism from campaigners against NHS privatisation.
Consider for a moment that the UK’s largest provider for mental health, the Priory Group, receives more than half its annual income (around £800m) from the NHS. You could be forgiven for thinking this sort of spending makes a nonsense of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s “no privatisation on my watch” pledge.
But what most reports regarding spending fail to mention is that the NHS has been using voluntary organisations, social enterprises and private companies for years.
And doing so is entirely consistent with its founding principles.
A cursory glance at the NHS’s 7 core values will show you that they’re committed to the quality of care and working together for patients.
Under the “working together for patients” value, they explain: “We put patients first in everything we do, by reaching out to staff, patients, carers, families, communities and professionals outside the NHS. We put the needs of patients and communities before organisational boundaries.”
When the private sector has such vast capacity and expertise, removing the ability of NHS commissioners to use it would do nothing but harm patients.
Pitting private versus public
The reality is that many healthcare professionals work in both independent hospitals and NHS settings, treating patients from all walks of life. Everyone wants to protect our NHS, but to frame private treatment as bad and public as good is an incredibly unhelpful polarisation.
And attempting to consolidate all services into NHS hospitals won’t solve the enormous challenges the service faces either.
The only sustainable solution
In the meantime, the best thing that anyone who’s able to can do to relieve further pressure on the NHS is to give it the space it needs to keep being good at the things it’s good at, like emergencies and cancer.
And rather than allowing the NHS to continue to pick up more of the spending on private services, why not do it yourself?
If you’re able to pay for private healthcare rather than rely on the NHS, you’ll not only be contributing to the most sustainable way forward for the public service, but you’ll also enjoy:
Your GP will refer you to the right specialist for a quick consultation or specialised treatment.
Shorter waiting times
Get seen within a week of your referral and have tests arranged within a matter of days.
Your choice of surgeon and hospital
Select your preferred surgeon and hospital and choose the times that you’re treated.
A comfortable experience
Avoid awkwardness and uncomfortable moments by receiving all care in a private room.
The scans you want when you want them
Get private scans without delay, and never face being refused the tests you need.
Innovative drugs and specialist treatment
Not all drugs and treatments are available on the NHS. When you go private? You get them.
Physio when you need it
Get fast access to the physio sessions and aftercare you need with private health insurance.
And the easiest way to do it is with a monthly private medical insurance plan.
Use our quick calculator to find out how much you could expect to pay for your premium and help solve the healthcare crisis.