Spending on private health surges £2.5 billion to an all-time high as Britons bypass NHS | Personal Finance | Finance

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Britons spent a record amount on healthcare in 2023 against the backdrop of an NHS struggling to cope.

The total rose to an all-time high of £32.3 billion, which was up by £2.5 billion on the year before.

One of the most significant amounts of household expenditure was £10bn on in-patient hospital services amid reports many are paying for private treatment and operations, such as hip replacements, due to frustration over long waits for NHS care.

The figure was up by £1 billion on the year before – a rise of 11.1 per cent – and includes medical care, meals and accommodation charges.

Another £8.6bn was spent on medicines and vitamins. This takes into account prescription charges which are set to rise to almost £10 in England.

The nation also spent £4.2bn on consultations with doctors and specialists and £4bn on dentists and hygienists.

Another £1.3bn was spent on acupuncturists, aromatherapists and reflexologists in a category that also includes private nurses and midwives.

Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, said people are taking a more proactive approach to maintaining their health.

However, he said: “It is concerning that a growing amount of our household spending is going on health issues that the NHS is increasingly unable to fund.

“For example, we spent £657m on therapeutic equipment last year; that’s items such as spectacles and contact lenses, hearing aids and wheelchairs.

“Until 1986, the NHS offered free eye tests and glasses for everyone.

“Similarly, NHS dentistry was initially free. Today, even under the NHS, crowns and bridges will cost most Brits over £260, and that’s if you can find an NHS dentist in your area. It’s small wonder that we are now spending £4bn on dental services, up from £3.6bn in 2022.”

He added: “These record figures appear just as patients in England endure another rise in prescription prices. From 1 May, NHS prescriptions rose from £9.65 to £9.90 per item and the 12-month prescription prepayment certificate increased from £111.60 to £114.50.

“Prescription costs of almost £10 are becoming a burden on household purses. Until the late 1960s, there was no prescription charge in England, and there are currently no charges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“So these record figures present a mixed picture in many ways.

“It does look as if we are becoming inured to spending money on health services and equipment that was previously free, and that does represent some long-term health risks for the UK population if costs continue to rise and services fall.

“On the other hand, these results also show we are proactively choosing to spend our money on healthcare products to help ensure we remain healthier and fitter for longer.”

The London Medical Laboratory provides diagnostic blood tests.

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