When the Government of the day put proposals forward for “comprehensive health and rehabilitation services for prevention and cure of disease” in 1945, the intention was to have a system that would serve any member of the United Kingdom for the entirety of their life.
The newly formed National Health Service would have the funding and the resources to help anyone who needs medical attention, right the way through to delivering treatment and surgery if required. It was a huge undertaking and a world away from systems in the United States that required a person to carry up to date medical insurance to cover the cost of their care. The NHS mandate effectively stated that anyone requiring medical assistance in the UK would receive it free of charge.
The system was funded through general taxation and National Insurance contributions, so was effectively paid for by everyone, but the big draw was that it could also be used by anyone, as required and you would only use their services if you needed them. But the service didn’t just cover accidental damage and illness. Things like regular and routine dentistry work, including any work you needed on your teeth covered by the NHS.
As the population of the UK started to grow, and more foreign nationals came to work in the country, the financial strain on the NHS started to show, and non-emergency treatment for visitors from other countries was put off until a patient could either pay in advance or signed a written undertaking to pay for the treatment. Road traffic accidents were always seen as an extra drain on resources and there has always been a requirement to pay for ambulance transfers and other treatment, though this is now transferred to any insurance company representative of the patient, rather than the patient themselves.
But still, there has been an increasing draw on resources leading to increasing hospital waiting times and the need to pay for certain drugs and processes. This has meant that people have had to wait for treatment which could take months or even years depending upon the resources in their local authority and the priority set. With this starling fact, more and more of those needing treatment have turned to private medical companies in order to be seen straight away.
The private medical industry blossomed during the 1980s and 1990s. It started off as a perk for business people but soon the attraction of it was difficult to deny. For the cost of only a few pounds per week, a whole family could have the peace of mind that any medical issue would be dealt with promptly and in the comfort of a private ward or even a completely private hospital. Suddenly, waiting lists were banished and the relatively low cost made it affordable for everyone who wanted it.