Numbers of people using private health care always increases when there are long waits for NHS treatment.

The impetus for this post comes from the surprise I had when I saw this advert from Nissan (above).

I know that years of longer and longer waits for NHS care are having an impact on the growth of the private medical insurance industry, but this advert demonstrates how this has moved to a new level.

Those of us who know the Northeast of England see this advert, for a number of reasons, as demonstrating a new level of crisis in the relationship between the public and the NHS.

Firstly, it – whilst clearly enticing staff to go and work at the car maker Nissan – appears at first glance to be inviting them to work in healthcare. This is because whilst the advert IS about healthcare, it is mainly advertising for staff to make cars using access to private medicine as an enticement.

Nissan, (who have flourished internationally because they always research their markets very well) have worked out that one way of attracting staff is to provide employee medical insurance. Before spending money on a campaign, they will have talked to a wide range of people about their motivation to change jobs. They have then crafted an advertising campaign that’s based most strongly on what will motivate people to come and work for them. And that, it turns out, is access to private healthcare.

So we can take as read that when asked working age women and men of the North East said that worries about NHS waiting times were so severe that they would think about changing jobs to get access to guaranteed healthcare.

Secondly, in the North East a job at Nissan is really a very good job. They have a reputation as one of the best employers in the region. Pay and conditions are good, they treat you well, and offer job security. Throughout the region working not just in Nissan factories but in their supply chain is something that people want to do, but apparently even that strong reputation now needs enhancement. That additional motivation – according to Nissan research – comes from meeting prospective staff’s anxiety about long NHS waits.

Thirdly, I had wrongly thought that the North East has very little private health provision. If that were the case the industry would have to scale up to meet the extra demand from the Nissan workforce.  But the regional differences in take up of private health insurance is not as great as I thought. Whilst London, on 22%, is as one might expect the highest of the regions it is East Midlands,  on 11%, that is lowest. The North East is on 14% (Statista)

Fourthly, whilst Nissan will be targeting anyone of working age with this advert, I was surprised that those of younger years would be worried about long waits for NHS treatment. Given the age of NHS in-patients I would have thought that waiting lists would mainly be the experience of those past retirement age. Whilst this may be true of those on waiting lists, many younger people are actually worried about long waits happening to them and their families. Waiting for NHS treatment may statistically be a matter for a higher proportion of retired people, but worrying about wating for NHS treatment impacts many people who are much younger.

In fact, people buying private health care in the UK are getting younger. The average age of those investing in private medical insurance (PMI) via the comparison site Go compare went down from 40 to 33 in the year between Jan 2020 and Jan 2021 (Go Compare 11/10/21).

In some ways this should not be surprising. Long waits for NHS treatment increase anxiety amongst the public about obtaining health care. Very long waits increase anxiety even more. We now live in a society where major organisations like Nissan recognise that this is a part of the lives of people in the country in which they are based and take this into account when planning their development.

Tomorrow’s post will explore what we did about this betweeh 2002-2007 – the last time this happened.


One Reply to “Numbers of people using private health care always increases when there are long waits for NHS treatment.”

  1. Hi Paul, and one thing we might reflect on is whether things might be different this time round, with concern levels around access now even higher than in 2007.

    What the LaingBuisson data shows is that the number of INDIVIDUAL subscribers to private medical insurance is now growing strongly, which reverses a near 30 year downward trend (interestingly, a small growth blip in 2007 /08, which may prove your point).

    But what we are seeing now looks to be strong growth. We won’t know if it is sustained until we see 2022 data. Thanks, and all best –


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