When considering Healthcare in the United Kingdom, there are many different areas and sectors to examine, which give a vast array of choices when it comes to choosing either private or publicly based healthcare provision.
The UK is renowned for its publicly funded, equality-led, accessible National Health Service (NHS). Created in July 1948, the National Health Service was the brainchild of Aneurin Bevan, a politician with Labour Party credentials, who acted as the Minister of Health from 1945 to 1951. The NHS is free and accessible to all and is funded by public finances, providing guaranteed care in the UK for all that use it and who have appropriate residential status.
Today, the National Health Service encompasses Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland,and England.
The NHS has an underpinning, core set of values that ensure an effective and holistic set of health services are delivered to UK residents, without any costs or charges (with some exceptions).
From humble beginnings, today's NHS employs hundreds of thousands of qualified and experienced staff in many different backgrounds and professions. The NHS provides doctors, consultants, nurses, paramedics, healthcare workers and allied health professions to name but a few. It also ensures that thousands of administrative staff, dentists, transport operatives, clinical and non-clinical staff are on hand,plus many other employees from a wide range of disciplines.
The NHS truly represents a dynamic and diverse workforce and boasts itself as a globally huge employer, having approximately 1.5 million employees. Representing itself as the UK's largest employer, the NHS currently has 217 trusts in operation.
During the 2018/2019 period, the Department for Health and Social Care had an expenditure of £130.3 billion pounds and these finances have been utilised to provide funding for GP based services, public health, ambulance provision, hospitals (as of 2019, there were around 1200 hospitals in place), community services, training, mental health services and vaccinations. Clinical Commissioning groups (CCGs) that number at around 200, ensure that plans for hospital, primary and community-based services are put into place. In the forefront of current news and events throughout 2020, the NHS has understandably taken a highly visual stance in leading and managing the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, strategically providing a whole host of community and hospital based services to tackle the challenging issues that coronavirus continues to present. The NHS has also been able to provide skilled help and resources (e.g. Personal Protective Equipment -PPE) to manage, contain and hopefully reduce associated infection control issues.
In the United Kingdom, the private, or independent healthcare sector is significant and available to access on an individual level. Such privately offered care gives those people who choose to use the huge range of independent options available, access to paid treatment such as hospitals, private GP/doctor services and other healthcare services. Access to private healthcare can be via individually held health and medical insurance policies,or through relevant employer-offered cover and benefits.
Private healthcare can have many advantages and may empower a person to skip (sometimes of considerable length) NHS waiting lists such as for operations and other procedures. It can provide more choice on hospital, including location of any care required, giving overall reassurance that the NHS might not be able to offer. Of huge benefit, the private healthcare sector will often give rapid access to required diagnosis and treatment, providing a more flexible choice of consultant, or required professional.
Private health insurance is often grouped within three main areas of insurance policy.
Firstly, opting for a hospital cash plan can attract a lower premium monthly but will only provide cover within pre-defined amounts to contribute towards a hospital stay.
Health insurance via a private policy can be an alternative method to gain private health cover (via a monthly premium cost, covering any illness) and is often available through the routes of individual, family or employment-based cover.
Lastly, critical illness insurance can provide a one-off cash sum when the policy holder has a diagnosis leading to a specific condition or life-threatening illness (e.g. stroke, cancer, heart attack, major organ transplant, kidney failure etc).
The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) challenges are understandably throwing a spotlight on both private and publicly funded community healthcare services, including care homes that operate with and without nursing care. These services have been providing healthcare throughout an unprecedented period in an ongoing effort to ensure they provide high quality, personalised, effective residential and nursing care.
There is a vast array of residential and nursing care home services to choose from in the UK and at a casual glance it is easy to become overwhelmed with the choices available. With many factors to consider and importantly price ranges (for those paid care services), choosing a care home or private care facility is not necessarily an easy task.
Those considering such a service will need to look at individual priorities and needs required, what care home services are offered and look to regulators (such as the Care Quality Commission -CQC) to help give an overview and insight to the care home and its overall quality'rating'. The CQC governing and inspection process also regulates and inspects NHS services and hospitals.
Adult day care centres, mental health hospitals, supported living services, extra care housing, home care/outreach services and a whole host of retirement villages, services and properties are also available within many different healthcare settings. These services can typically meet the needs of individuals who have simple or complex medical, physical, or mental health needs, providing holistically based care and support on a highly individual level. Most importantly, such healthcare services can also give peace of mind.
Health and social care services are operated by privately offered and publicly funded providers, giving access to qualified and skilled professionals, resources and care which is often supplied over 24-hours a day and 7-days per week.