An increasing number of British people are traveling abroad for medical care, as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) continues to struggle to serve patients amid nursing strikes and budget cuts.
Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and still feeling the after effects, NHS waiting lists in England alone now stand at a record seven million. That’s seven million people who are awaiting “routine, or non-urgent, treatment”, like hip replacements, eye care and gallbladder surgery.
The situation has become so severe that the chairman of the British Medical Association, Professor Philip Banfield, has described it as a “national scandal”. Talking to Sky News, Professor Banfield said: “What the pandemic has done is aggravate a situation that was deteriorating, and we have been highlighting for ten years or more so if you look at the waiting list the figures had gone from 2.6 to 4.4 million before the pandemic. It has gone over seven million now. This is an absolute national scandal.”
Professor Banfield’s comments come after the Royal College of Nursing said twice as many of its members were preparing to go on strike in February if talks with the UK government remain at a stalemate.
The UK government says nurses have been offered a "fair" pay deal and it has accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body "in full".
As a result of the record-high waiting times, many Brits are opting to pay for their treatment privately, be it at home or abroad. Indeed, data shows the number of people in the UK searching Google for the term “private healthcare” has risen significantly to hit a record high. Meanwhile, figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network reveal the number of people self-paying for private acute care has increased by more than a third versus before the pandemic.
Here at France Surgery, it is certainly something we’ve seen, too, with increased demand from UK patients seeking cardiology care and orthopedic surgery. “Before Brexit, English people came to France for healthcare purposes because they were reimbursed by the NHS. Now, they come to France because of the skyrocketing waiting lists in the UK,” said Carine Briat-Hilaire, chief executive and co-founder of France Surgery.