New research documenting consumer pessimism over the future of the NHS highlights major opportunities for insurers, writes Chris Jones.
Here’s the good news: despite recent controversies, most people in Britain today continue to regard the National Health Service highly, and believe in the values that underpin healthcare that is free at the point of use.
Less happily, research suggests that large numbers of people think the NHS is set to deteriorate given the increasing demands it faces during this ongoing period of public-sector austerity.
Those demands, ranging from Britain’s ageing population to the increasing sophistication (and cost) of medicines and treatments, are only going to become more pressing. Meanwhile, NHS funding is under pressure.
Although frontline services are to be protected, the service has been told it must make efficiency savings of £20bn within three years. These savings are likely to be just the start.
It was in this context that FirstAssist conducted major research earlier this year. The market research group YouGov surveyed more than 500 adults and conducted a series of focus groups at which participants discussed those views. The aim was to establish consumers’ expectations of what the squeeze on the NHS might mean for them, and how they are likely to respond.
Their answers to the first part of that question were clear. Almost half of two consumers (48%) expect to see the NHS deteriorate over the next 12 months. The figure rises to 57% among people aged 55 or older.
People expect to wait longer for diagnosis and treatment, to find it harder to access non-emergency treatments such as cataract removal or hip replacements, and to see the quality of after-care services such as physiotherapy decline.
Affordable top-up cover
As for the second part of the question, consumers were equally vocal about how they intend to respond: by taking greater responsibility for their future healthcare costs.
Exactly half of consumers say they would be prepared to buy insurance that covers the gaps where the NHS is receding (including 9% who already have bought cover).
‘Is it normal?’
Cigna report finds
What will drive the biggest changes?
As part of NHS Long Term Plan
Diagnostics and direct referral