Younger people twice as likely to access private healthcare, with most willing to pay using their own money or savings

Almost nine in ten (87%) UK adults believe people should have equivalent access to NHS services regardless of where they live, with those aged over 55 feeling most strongly about this
Seven in ten of 18-24 year olds are likely to access private healthcare, compared to three in ten of those aged 55 and over
Over three quarters of young people willing to access private healthcare would pay for at least one treatment using savings or their own money
Improving wellbeing support for female NHS workers of menopausal age could reduce the turnover and absence of 9,000 staff per year
Younger people are twice as likely to access private healthcare in the next 12 months than those aged over 55, as health gaps remain between the rich and poor, according to a study by PwC on transforming healthcare.

A PwC survey of 2,000 people across the UK showed that whilst two in five people (43%) say they would use private healthcare, or a mix of private and the NHS, for at least one treatment, younger people aged 18 to 24 are more than twice as likely to do so. Seven in ten (77%) 18 to 24 year olds said they would use private healthcare, or a mix, for one thing or more, compared to three in ten (30%) of those aged 55 and over.

Over three quarters (78%) of those young people wanting to access private healthcare said they would pay for a treatment using savings or their own money, with others saying they would use health insurance (72%) and would ask for help from family and friends (65%).

Geographically, Londoners are three times more likely (63%) to be willing to access private healthcare for at least one treatment, compared to people living in the North East (22%). Black and ethnic minorities are also more likely to be willing to pay to access private healthcare for something with seven in ten (70%) people saying they would, compared to four in ten (41%) white people.

Karen Finlayson, PwC’s regional lead for government & health industries, said:

“Generation Z is empowered to take decision making into their own hands and their willingness to opt for private healthcare is a sign of this. As the first generation defined by the disruption of Covid, how they access services, including healthcare, is changing. They are used to operating remotely, accessing tech-enabled services, and want fast-paced options, and these behaviours are evident in how they want to manage their wellbeing and health.”

Regional inequalities

PwC’s report A fairer future: how can the NHS tackle health and social inequities? also explores regional inequalities and differences in attitudes and impact on health inequity.

Almost nine in ten (87%) UK adults believe people should have equivalent access to NHS services regardless of where they live. People aged over 55 felt most strongly about this (93%) compared to those aged 18-34 (78%). Regionally, people in Yorkshire and Humber think most strongly (93%) that people should have the same access to the NHS compared to those living in London (83%).

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, senior advisor at PwC, said:

“Equity is at the heart of the NHS’ founding principles but in practice both access to care and health outcomes remain starkly unequal. Widening social divisions and the cost of living crisis make this the time for the NHS to make health equity a core priority for action. The public want the NHS to be a catalyst for greater fairness in our country. That means changing how services are provided, how resources are allocated and how staff are recruited.”

Workforce support

With a greater need for the NHS to focus on staff wellbeing due to the immense workforce pressures exacerbated by COVID-19, the report calls for an increase in the pace and scope of action on workforce wellbeing. This includes improving support for female NHS workers experiencing menopause symptoms, which could reduce the turnover and absence of 9,000 staff per year, according to PwC’s analysis.

With 1.4million employees, the NHS provides careers beyond doctors and nurses to occupations such as porters, ambulance staff and healthcare assistants. PwC’s report calls for the NHS to develop a social mobility strategy, including capturing data on its workforce’s socio-economic backgrounds in the same way as other diversity measures, such as race and gender.

PwC’s public polling found that people value the NHS creating economic value through employment more than delivering services at the lowest cost. People ranked world class skills (29%) and training and employment opportunities for the local population (26%) as the most important things the NHS should prioritise in recruitment and training of its workforce.

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