With the NHS in crisis and 12 per cent of the population finding themselves on waiting lists to get treatment, there has been a consequent increase in patients who have switched to private healthcare over the past two years.
Telegraph readers have shared their personal experiences, describing how the NHS compares with the treatment they have received under private healthcare plans.
'I felt like I did not have the time to wait two years in agony for the NHS to help me'
"In summer 2021 I suffered horrendous pain from sciatica - so much so I could hardly walk. I was taking 14 painkillers a day, with very little relief, and I thought I'd have to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
"My local GP practice could only offer me a telephone appointment in three weeks, but I was absolutely desperate so I arranged an appointment to see a private spinal consultant which did not require GP intervention. I had both MRI and CT scans within a few days - costing £300 a time - and spinal surgery in a week, to remove an arthritic growth on my spine which was compressing my sciatic nerve, which cost £15,000."
"I can now walk without pain, and will be forever grateful for the skill and expert knowledge of the spinal surgeon - who, by the way, was utterly charming with a great sense of humour. I was told by friends that relying on the NHS the waiting time for surgery would be two years or more.
"I am 76 and consider each day a bonus, so I felt like I did not have the time to wait two years in agony for the NHS to help me. Luckily I had savings which I realise many people do not have, but I would have spent anything to be relieved of pain."
'I knew from my previous cancer that speed was of the essence so I paid for private'
"I previously suffered from kidney cancer and therefore I am at heightened risk of cancer returning. Last year my GP was concerned about a mark on my eardrum and referred me for an MRI scan. Within a couple of days I received an invite from the NHS to book my appointment online. When I attempted to do this I was informed there was nothing available and I would be advised when I could join a waiting list.
"I knew from my previous cancer that speed was of the essence so I paid for a private MRI scan which I received within three days. It proved to be negative and then over two weeks later I received the NHS invitation to join a waiting list.
"In the light of this experience and utterly woeful experiences of my family, I, along with my wife, have now acquired private health insurance. We can no longer trust the NHS with our lives."
'Even though private treatment is eye-wateringly expensive, I don't think I'll ever go back to the NHS'
"My father was an NHS GP and my daughter is also a hospital doctor, so I'm a child of the NHS through and through and have always supported it passionately, but I turned to private healthcare during lockdown and have never gone back, although I am registered with an NHS GP.
"I had Covid very badly (not hospitalised) in March 2020, and was left with a variety of unpleasant, painful and debilitating after effects, mostly to do with my immune system going haywire, for which I simply could not get an NHS GP appointment let alone treatment. During that time I had two private operations: on my eye for a horrendous inflammatory condition that was affecting my vision and my confidence and ability to work, and two scans and injections of corticosteroid in each of my shoulders which were necessary as I was in constant pain. I could not have obtained either on the NHS. I've also just had my cataracts operated on privately also.
"I'm not wealthy, and the private treatment is expensive - I've just signed up with BUPA, but they won't cover pre-existing conditions - but it's been an absolute godsend. My private GP has also prescribed HRT for me as opposed to my judgemental and unpleasant former GP which has proved a life-changer.
"I don't think I'll ever go back to the NHS, private treatment is eye-wateringly expensive but you can get treatment, see a doctor when you need one, and they have the time to listen. My private doctor also helped a member of my family access superb mental health treatment at a time when it was greatly needed and could not be accessed without years of waiting via the NHS route for even an assessment."
'It's about time the use of private insurance was encouraged, rather than vilified'
"While I'm all for private health insurance, it means people are paying twice. Once for a service that doesn't work and once to actually be treated.
"It's about time the use of private insurance was encouraged, rather than vilified, by tax advantages so people don't feel as if they're being fleeced and help the move to a public/private healthcare system."
'The NHS is brilliant in accidents they’re not so good when people have chronic conditions due to lack of funds'
"I was at an NHS hospital to have a procedure I needed on my hip. I was shown to my bed on the ward to await going into the operation rooms. I asked the nurse if I could have a pillow for the bed as there was none, she replied they are all being used. So when I needed a hernia operation I used my Benenden insurance because of my previous bad experience the NHS would not have covered a keyhole.
"After I had been treated so well and the doctor actually listened to me, I couldn't bear the thought of NHS treatment where the consultants didn't listen or didn't believe you. The same year I had to have an impingement operation and I had my insurance in place by then so went private. The NHS is brilliant in accidents but unfortunately they are not so good due to lack of funds when people have chronic conditions."
'I had breast cancer and the NHS queue was simply too long'
"I had breast cancer and the NHS queue was simply too long, so I turned to private healthcare. I now get five years of follow up. But more importantly I needed a mastectomy and the NHS is currently not giving reconstructions and women are having to wait two-plus years - which is horrific.
"I had my mastectomy and reconstruction all done at the same time, and then a year later I had alignment surgery. I would have never got this under the NHS."
'There isn’t an argument on quality, but in speed of diagnosis and service'
"I am a recently retired partner in one of the big four. During my working life I always had private medical cover, the view being that time is money and better to get well quickly, so pay for it. It doesn’t always work, though. The surgeons are the same, so there isn’t an argument on quality in that respect. What you do get is speed of diagnosis and service. Having said that, it is very expensive. £9,000 a year now for a couple in their early 60s.
"The big issue and a trap the public shouldn’t be driven to by Government, is paying for both like I have. I took nothing for either health care or schooling from the state, but I still paid my share. If the public opt for private health they won’t get the government to relinquish the public's part of the payment. It’s now about making the NHS fit for purpose and having the right value for money in the analysis. I suspect the con will be that we will all be paying £9,000 a year one way or another in the future, or you’ll have elected for the second class alternative."