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NHS Worries Pushing People to Private Care

  • Published: 2009-03-18 (Revised/Updated 2010-07-14) : Author: Ruth J
  • Synopsis: British people have stated that they are greatly concerned about the level of cleanliness and hygiene in UK NHS hospitals.

Main Document

British people have stated that they are greatly concerned about the level of cleanliness and hygiene in UK NHS hospitals according to a study by Saga Private Medical Insurance, noting it as their main reason for opting to go for private medical care.

These factors along with the waiting times patients have to put up with are among the top concerns.

NHS hygiene

Around 68 per cent of people - just over two thirds of those involved in the study - mentioned that the present level of hygiene and cleanliness in NHS facilities, the second most common worry was about catching MRSA bacteria, where 66 per cent, of those involved said that they were worried about this. Moreover the waiting time that patients faced was a major concern that affected 57 per cent of those questioned.

The following two concerns were made up the top five of patients concerns and were noted as, the doctors working hours, which were a major concern to 42 per cent of the respondents, while being treated on a mixed ward was noted as a concern by 36 per cent of those involved.

The study also found that 73 per cent of people, who were over the age of 50-years showed the most concern about hygiene in NHS hospitals and 76 per cent were anxious about catching an infection while in the hospital. Younger people showed a concern of a high level but at a lesser rate in the relation to the issue of cleanliness and infections, with 64 per cent and 58 per cent noting concerns in the same areas.

Females were also found to be more conscious of their social surroundings in hospitals. Forty-four per cent of women claimed that they were unhappy about being in a mixed ward, whereas only 27 per cent of men noted this situation as a caused then great amount of concern. The quality of treatments within a hospital ward as well as the quality of food was a main concern to 31 per cent of patients.


More than 67 per cent of the respondents stated that they had been treated in hospitals in the past five years but a major lack of confidence has caused many people to take out private medical insurance (PMI) policies. These are health insurance policies that can finance treatments in private hospitals. Thirty-seven per cent of people polled stated that they have either recently taken out or were seriously considering taking out a PMI policy in the near future. Forty-eight per cent of people in Eastern England or in the South-East were most likely to take out such a policy, whereas in Scotland and Northern Ireland only 24 per cent of people were predicted to do the same.

Shorter waiting times was one of the driving forces for people who took out PMI's with 51 per cent of such people stating this reason for their move towards private health care and taking out the insurance policy. Moreover 41 per cent also believed that the facilities in private hospitals were much better than that of the NHS and 39 per cent believe that the treatment and care in private hospitals are much better than in the NHS.

Andrew Goodsell, Chief Executive, Saga Group Ltd, said: "Although the NHS is a world-leading service, many feel more reassured knowing they have private medical cover. Despite the government effort and resource in recent years focused on reducing waiting times, the reality is that the public still feel they are too long and that's borne out by the continuing strong demand for Private Medical Insurance and access to private treatment in safe and clean environments."

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