When the NHS was launched in 1948 it seemed to herald a new golden age in healthcare provision. Its ethos was that everyone in the UK should have access to good healthcare regardless of wealth. When one considers that much of the healthcare provision that many of us take for granted in this country had, until that point, been unavailable to most of the population demonstrates both the scale of the NHS’s aspirations and the success that it embodies. Access to GPs, surgeons, antenatal services, medications and specialists are only a drop in the ocean of the things that the NHS made available to the general population.
To a large extent the NHS has managed to uphold these principles and, with the exception of charges for prescriptions, eye tests and dentistry, remains free at the point of use for UK residents. It is, however, under massive amounts of strain, and can in many ways be seen as a victim of its own success.
The number of people who are using the NHS increases every year, and as that number increases so does the strain that is placed on its services. An influx of people from abroad and a growing elderly population in the UK means that services are more stretched than ever.
Financial constraints mean that certain services which are provided on the NHS are severely stretched, and you may well have to wait days, even weeks to see your own GP and several months to see a specialist or to have a particular diagnostic procedure like a CAT or an MRI scan.
Also, not all drugs are available on the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) decides which drugs should be made available on the NHS. This means that certain drugs, which are very expensive or have just been licenced do not always get their approval. This means that the only way to receive these medications is to obtain them through a private prescription and to pay for them.
All these facts mean that sometimes patients decide to receive certain parts of their healthcare privately. This does hot mean, however, that they are not still entitled to receive treatments on the NHS.
Many patients feel that supplementing their NHS treatment with those available privately is the best course of action for them. Whilst some people may not have the financial resources to do this or feel that having private treatment is prohibitive, mixing private and NHS need not be as difficult or as expensive as one might think.