According to a report from UK think tank Policy Exchange, 80 per cent of patients on the current National Health Service (NHS) waiting list are expecting a decision at the earliest point of their diagnosis. That equates to more than 4.2 million people and is a ticking time bomb for the NHS as one in five cancers are picked up following a non-cancer referral.
Due to this rise in NHS waiting times and referrals to the private sector, the private sector is growing and currently boasts total annual turnover of over £70 billion.
The paper, A Wait on Your Mind?, warns that millions of people are being ‘left in limbo’ and has led to experts calling for a new £1.3-billion package for the diagnostics sector. The study is backed by former NHS England National Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh, former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell, and Professor Neil Mortenson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons.
“We agree that the current state of the waiting list in England is politically unacceptable,” Mortenson said. “With more than 5.3 million on the waiting list, innovative solutions and investment are sorely needed.”
One such solution could be in the form of medical travel, whereby patients choose to travel to another country for treatment.
What’s the global situation like?
Even before the pandemic, waiting lists for public healthcare have been a concern for many countries. Last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that waiting times for elective surgery can vary widely, with patients waiting times almost 10 times higher in some countries than others. The increase in the private healthcare market is in part due to more NHS referrals.