The recent elections have put a Conservative government in power, and with this mandate from the voters, it is well within the realm of possibility that the Tories will begin to make changes to the NHS that might make private medical insurance a more attractive option than ever before.
The major changes that the Conservatives might attempt could be explicit removals of parts of the NHS or simply reductions in funding and reimbursements for important procedures, leading to decreased access and higher wait times for many patients. That means that private health insurance cover might become an important purchase for those who will need to go private in order to get the care they need in a timely manner.
Many aspects of the NHS work extremely well, and most of its users are quite happy with the system. However, that does not make it perfect, and the biggest issue for most patients is the waiting times. Getting to see a doctor or get tests done can be slow, and waiting for admission to a hospital can take quite a while. If the Tories are successful in cutting the funding for the NHS one way or another, then that could lead to wait times that are even longer as health providers cut back on less-remunerative procedures or need to reduce their staff.
The private market can help rectify this problem for some individuals by providing an alternate set of care providers and by allowing you to pick the provider you want, but without private medical insurance, the costs of going through the private system are high. The potentially increased need to go private in order to dodge big queues in the NHS is making private insurance less of a luxury and more of a necessity.
According to an examination of the NHS and the new government from RT, there is a real threat that the Conservative government will slowly starve the NHS by outsourcing components of the system to private providers and reducing its funding, and Open Democracy has found that the government has cut its payments to health providers significantly for many important procedures already. If that continues, it could push more people into the private system. There's also a more direct way the Tories could push people into the private system, and that's by attacking the structure of the NHS itself.
Although Prime Minister Cameron promised that there would be cuts to the deficit without cuts to the NHS, there is a very real possibility that the government will try to reduce the NHS in size and scope by modifying the relationship between citizens and the NHS. For example, according to Open Democracy, the government plans to start requiring people to pay for visits to general practitioners or for hospital stays after operations.
This would change the way citizens obtain care and increase the barriers to accessing care within the NHS. Depending on how such barriers are constructed, it could become the case that it is cheaper to obtain private insurance and go through the private system than to pay the fees associated with the NHS. While there are many different roads that would result in patients eventually needing to contribute more and more of their own money for NHS care, the end result is the same: the basic premise of the NHS as a single-payer system where the government handles all the costs may be coming to an end.
The implications of that from an insurance perspective are that the private system will no longer be an expensive alternative to the free tier of care from the NHS. Instead, there will be a real need for patients to compare their out of pocket costs from going with both systems. After taking into account the cost of premiums, it is very possible that there will be times when the private system is actually cheaper.
There is more to the story that just cost. Quality of care matters too. If cuts to the NHS do occur and that reduces the amount of money in the system, quality will suffer along with access. Even if the NHS is still the cheapest option, it might become necessary to build a presence in the private system just to ensure that you have good care providers that you trust. These points should all convince you that in the near future you might need to seriously consider buying a private medical insurance policy. It is never good to face uncertainty, but insurance can help to reduce some of that uncertainty and open up new opportunities for you.