Health Insurance

Half a million more people take out health insurance in 2022 as NHS crisis bites

Health insurance policy holders have risen by hundreds of thousands in the last year as the NHS struggles to meet demands, despite the cost of cover.

Almost half a million more people have taken out private health insurance over the past year, according to data from three of the largest providers.

Extensive waiting lists for treatment, nurse and ambulance strikes and general pressure on the NHS are thought to be behind the spike in policy holders.

Bupa, Aviva and Vitality have registered 480,000 new customers since the beginning of 2022, according to the Telegraph.

Aviva told the Telegraph "concerns regarding the pressures on the NHS post Covid-19 are definitely a significant driver” for new customers.

Aviva added 100,000 new customers between December 2021 and December 2022, saying there was a particular new appeal for younger people.

A spokesperson said: “We have noted many individuals considering private health insurance for the first time, including significant interest from younger age groups who traditionally would not have viewed private health insurance as a priority.

“We are also seeing improved retention rates as individuals and employers are prioritising keeping their valuable healthcare cover in place.”

The average cost of private health insurance is currently £85 a month, or £1,020 a year, according to our research.

It is significantly cheaper for younger people - £39 a month for a typical 30-year-old non-smoker compared to £150 for a 70-year-old non-smoker.

A spokesperson for the Private Healthcare Information Network, an independent body that tracks performance of the industry, said "uncertainty" about when procedures would take place were "influencing" the rising interest.

The NHS is facing a huge crisis and backlog in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw many treatments and operations cancelled. This, added with the annual winter pressure, historic under-funding, people living longer and large vacancy rates have caused long waiting times. Currently one in 10 NHS posts are vacant, according to the BBC.

Many doctors have also decided to retire early due to what the BMA calls punitive pension taxation.

Up to 500 people could be dying each week because of delays to emergency care, according to Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. He told Times Radio last week: “We went into this December with the worst-ever performance against our target and the highest-ever occupancy levels in hospital.

“We don’t know about the waiting-time figures because they don’t come out for a couple of weeks; I’d be amazed if they’re not the worst ever that we’ve seen over this December.

“What we’re seeing now in terms of these long waits is being associated with increased mortality, and we think somewhere between 300 and 500 people are dying as a consequence of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care each week. We need to actually get a grip of this.”

Bupa saw 100,000 more people sign up to health insurance policies between December 2021 and June 2022 and estimates it has added another 100,000 customers over the last six months.

Meanwhile Vitality told the Telegraph it had seen a 20 percent uplift in policy holders over 2022, equivalent to 180,000 more customers.

NimbleFins previously reported how 3.7 million people used a private GP in the last two years. And 1.6 million of those had used a paid-for service for the first time.

A separate poll found 11 percent of people who could not get an appointment with their GP over the last 12 months had paid for a private consultation.

Some people were so desperate but unable to get an appointment with their local GP they'd resorted to DIY treatment.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the NHS needs a "fundamental change" to "deal with what is the biggest crisis in its history".


Read our guides to health insurance, including how much it costs and reviews of the big providers to see if it’s right for you.

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.