The number of people paying privately for operations and treatments in the UK has risen by more than a third since early 2020. This indicates a huge problem for the future of the NHS.

NHS waiting lists are at record lengths, as almost everyone who has tried to make a GP appointment in the last decade knows. As a result, people are going private, and feeling – wrongly – that NHS privatisation could be a good idea.

7.3m people are currently waiting for NHS treatment in England, a figure up by nearly 40% since before the pandemic. 

Emma Torrance made the decision to pay for her ADHD diagnostic assessment, after being faced with an NHS wait which, in some trusts, can be over two years.

She says, “I had to overcome my very strong personal feeling of ‘this isn’t right and isn’t how things should be done’.”

Emma studies medicine at university and strongly believes in nationalised healthcare. She adds, “It quickly became an issue of ‘I need to do this now because I am sinking’. I was failing my exams. I didn’t have time to wait and see how long the waiting list was actually going to be.

“When the option is to go private or drop out, the measures you go to are a lot more extreme.”

Figures show 272,000 people paid for private treatments and operations last year, up from 199,000 in 2019.

As desperate patients who can afford to understandably wave the white flag and go private, we are all left surrounded by the red ones of NHS privatisation.

But what does this actually mean? A nationalised health service means we all pay our taxes and National Insurance, and as a result, everyone in the country is eligible for free healthcare. It’s technically paid for by all of us but is free at the point of use, that is, apart from prescription payments, dentistry, ear syringing, and so on…

Privatising the NHS essentially means a non-government business or operation owns it (or parts of it). 

In clearer terms: It’s money money money for owners, while poor people who have the audacity to get ill get absolutely shafted.

For example, in the US, parents are charged to hold their newborns and 45,000 people die every year as a result of needing treatments not covered by health insurance.

The NHS is perhaps the only thing about the UK that we can mostly all agree on: It needs more resources, it needs to stay free, and it’s the only fucking thing about this island that makes it worth living on.

Sir Keir Starmer, sticking to those lefty values as ever, declared in a Sunday Telegraph article that “nothing is off limits” when it comes to the NHS. He said the NHS “should not be treated as a shrine” and is in need of “unsentimental reform”.

If you weren’t already nervous, he later told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge: “A number of people do go as NHS patients to the private sector. Our research shows that that’s been underused, and we could do more of it.”

Counter-point, no we shouldn’t. 

Emma adds, “I went to the private appointment, and it was so unsupported and felt heavily motivated by money. It didn’t feel like they cared about you at all. They just seem to care about the money.

“I hate the idea that there are any private services that we can go to in the UK, where we have an NHS. I had to fight every bone in my body to do it.”

Now, we’ll hardly hear ‘NHS’ without the following words being ‘in crisis’. At what point does a crumbling building – not for weak foundations, but for people in the shadows quietly chipping away at it for decades – drive the people inside to either leave or fight back and rebuild?