NHS failings give private medical insurance firms a boost

23 October 2007
More people are turning to the private medical sector to ensure that they and their families get a good level of healthcare rather than put their lives in the hands of a failing NHS system, according to recent findings from The Association of British Insurers (ABI).

For the first time in recent years, the number of subscribers to personal Private Medical Insurance (PMI) policies has gone up. The latest figures from ABI show that last year, 1,030,000 people subscribed to personal PMI policies, an increase of 1.8% from 1,012,000 in 2005. This figure is expected to rise significantly within the next few months.

The NHS has recently come under fire after a report into the outbreaks of superbug C-Difficile at the Maidenhead and Tunbridge Wells Hospitals NHS Trust revealed that at least 345 patients had died while in the care of the hospitals.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance and Health, says: “Private Medical Insurance offers people greater choice of treatment and other services for a wide range of medical conditions and injuries. It also takes pressure off the NHS, so by buying PMI, people are effectively reducing the burden on Britain’s hard-pressed health service. It is encouraging that more individuals are choosing to buy PMI for themselves and their families.”

Personal and corporate PMI plans now cover 5.9 million UK adults and children however, the majority of PMI policies are offered by employers so many people are not aware of the benefits. This has created a gap in the market which has seen a flood of new policies rushing to cash in on the public’s wariness of NHS healthcare. One such example is Tesco who, earlier this month, launched its first health cover package: Tesco Health Insurance Finest Cover.

Amongst other benefits, the cover includes cancer treatment for up to three years; treatment for pregnancy complications and a private hospital transport service. Jeremy Sutton, Head of Savings and Investments at Tesco Personal Finance explains:

"Tesco entered the private medical insurance (PMI) market to encourage more people to look at PMI by offering straightforward products at prices which offer good value."

However, consumers are being advised to shop around to ensure they are getting the best cover for their personal requirements: David Doulton, Director of www.farinvestment.co.uk, the price comparison website, explains:

“Consumers looking to get PMI are in the strongest position they have been in a long time. Not only are there several new policies on the market, but as people are growing increasingly frustrated with the NHS, providers are going to be falling over themselves to offer the most comprehensive policies.

“However, PMI is not a price driven market so it’s important to ensure you are getting the best level of cover from the right provider. We advise anyone considering taking out PMI to check the finer details rather than just opting for the cheapest package.”

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