One policyholder had his heart surgery postponed for the three months during the pandemic
In February, a management consultant from Surrey named Paul [pictured] was diagnosed with a defective aortic valve.
However his journey to getting treatment was far from straightforward. In March, he needed to have a transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) test and minimally invasive aortic valve replacement surgery. Due to Covid-19, these were postponed.
Paul had to wait more than three months before being offered an appointment. "I was only given a date because my condition (breathing) was seriously deteriorating and my two cardiac consultants applied pressure to get the surgery date," he told COVER.
Having PMI was absolutely critical for me in getting an earlier date for surgery
When Paul's condition deteriorated in June, his consultant arranged urgent surgery, which was fully supported by a health insurance policy he'd taken out through Vitality. Paul is convinced that having the cover in place made a huge difference to his chances of recovery.
"I think having private medical insurance (PMI) was absolutely critical for me in getting an earlier date for surgery," he said. "Possibly even saving my life as my condition was deteriorating and both surgeons described my need as urgent."
NHS waiting times
Just one month before his surgery, Paul had been admitted to A&E and kept in a ward for a couple of days in the NHS with other patients with a similar condition. He said that there he came across others in a worse state than him who had been told they would have a further wait for surgery despite the fact they had already been waiting for months. "I was very concerned for them," said Paul, who feels fortunate he had health insurance to help speed up his own treatment.
Having endured an incredibly worrying time and despite some further complications, Paul is slowly recovering at home. However he's keen to recommend health insurance to others as a result of his experience, especially in light of reduced NHS and private hospital capacity during Covid.
Dr Keith Klintworth, group COO and managing director for VitalityHealth, said: "At the start of the pandemic, how people accessed healthcare completely changed, both in the private and public sector. Private hospital providers stepped in to support the NHS and public health for a number of months, providing vital care during a time of crisis. More recently, private healthcare has reverted back, once again offering capacity to insurers, going back to what is near to what it had been before the pandemic, but not before it has changed the industry in a number of ways."
According to new figures released by PHIN, there were more than 40,000 private healthcare admissions in the UK during August, which is more than two-thirds of the admissions in 2019, as the private healthcare sector continues to bounce back.
"During the pandemic, all insurers, including Vitality, responded quickly; pivoting and adapting how they provided care," said Dr Klintworth. "For us, we prioritised ensuring any members experiencing a delay to an operation or any kind of treatment were safe and well and could have their care prioritised if it became urgent, such as happened in Paul's case here."
Fliss, a 35-year-old diagnosed with breast cancer relocated to get remote chemotherapy during Covid. Read her story here.
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