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NHS rationing prompts rise in GPs asking patients about private health insurance

The number of GPs asking patients about private medical insurance has soared in the past 12 months, according to a new survey.

Some 58% of 1,015 GPs surveyed in June by private company Spire Healthcare said they were asking more patients about private medical insurance than they were six months ago, compared with just 24% in the same period last year.

The GPC said the figures were a likely result of the increased rationing of some surgical procedures on the NHS, with some areas imposing draconian restrictions on procedures like hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and IVF.

The survey found over half of GPs (54%) reported feeling comfortable when directing patients to private treatment, irrespective of whether the patient had private medical insurance. But 36% said they still felt uncomfortable about doing so.

Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter, clinical services director for Spire Healthcare, said asking about private insurance meant GPs could save the NHS a ‘substantial' amount of money.

He said: ‘It's good to see more and more GPs asking their patients about private treatment.

‘The private sector has an important role to play working alongside our excellent national healthcare system in the UK.'

But Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair and a GP in Leeds, said: ‘It may be more to do with the restrictions some PCTs are putting in place.

‘It's become more routine for GPs to ask patients – particularly those who come in asking for a referral, if it is known there is a restriction – if they have private medical insurance.'