Half of people in Britain are considering buying health insurance as concerns about the impact of financial pressures in the NHS increase, a poll has revealed today.
A survey of more than 500 people for insurance firm First Assist found that 9% of those asked had already purchased some form of private medical cover, while 41% would consider buying such products in the future.
The poll, which was conducted by YouGov, found that people are most interested in products that focused on reduced waiting times or providing better access to aftercare treatments than were available in the NHS.
Almost one in two (48%) expect to see the NHS deteriorate over the next 12 months, while the same proportion believes the state will be unable to sustain NHS spending in its current format.
Amongst those aged 55 or above, concern is even more acute - 57% expect the NHS to deteriorate over the next 12 months.
Among those, well over half, 59%, expect waiting times for treatment or surgery to lengthen. Four out of ten also expect to wait longer for diagnosis.
People are therefore prepared to consider products and services offered by a broad range of potential providers, including insurers, employers, financial services companies such as banks and building societies and affinity providers, the report added.
First Assist's head of product management Chris Jones said the report provided 'growing evidence' of people's appetite to take greater control of their healthcare.
Many people are already beginning to think hard about the choices they must make, opening the door for providers to help them address their needs and concerns, he added. 'It is up to us as an industry to rise to the challenge and deliver affordable, accessible and simple products and services which help address our customers' needs, particularly in areas such as speedier diagnoses or better aftercare.'