The government needs to utilise the capability and capacity in the private health sector to reduce pressure on an over-stretched NHS, the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII) has said.
Reacting to the announcement that the NHS Five Year Forward View has effectively abandoned the 18-week treatment target for elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements, AMII Chairman Stuart Scullion said there was capacity in the private health insurance and private hospital sector to offer greater support to the NHS.
Mr Scullion said: “The NHS is on the verge of meltdown. The combination of operational and fiscal pressures mean the NHS can no longer meet its 18-week deadline treatment target for elective surgeries, which is a sad indictment on the world’s fifth largest economy.
“In prioritising areas such as primary care, A&E and cancer, chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens also acknowledged this is likely mean some lengthening of waiting lists for treatments including hip and knee replacements or cataract surgery.
“AMII believes this underlines the important role the private sector can play in stepping in to help meet those targets. We need to be helping people access treatment quickly and AMII believes use of the private sector should be encouraged - not penalising those who want to prioritise their health.
“One option would be to re-introduce tax breaks on medical insurance policies, especially for the over 60s.
“Tax relief was removed from individual PMI policies for the over 60s in 1997 and since then individual subscriber numbers have shrunk by more than 30%, with a reduction in the number of consumer policyholders of over 500,000.*
“However, the claims spend in the private sector in 2015 was £3.6 billion, providing hundreds of thousands of individuals access to medical treatment. In many cases they would not have been able to afford that treatment without their insurance cover - potentially pushing them back to the NHS and placing extra pressure on waiting lists.
“There is capacity in the health insurance, cash plan and private hospital sector to provide greater support to the NHS. Creating tax breaks for those willing and able to buy PMI would be one step towards reducing further pressure on an already overstretched NHS.
“The single biggest factor for cancelling PMI among the over 60s is cost. At a time when they are more likely to claim, the cost is being significantly increased – and they are being driven back to the NHS as a result.
“The Chancellor needs to consider the net value cost of that decision.”
- Source: LaingBuisson Health Cover Report 2015