Demand grows for private tests

By Agnes Rose

As many as 60% of patients would consider paying for tests they need if they faced a long NHS wait.

Findings of a Patients Assoc­iation survey of 1,000 NHS patients also include:

  • 93% of respondents want investment in testing capacity so patients can receive faster tests and diagnosis;
  • 91% want investment in diagnostics and new technology prioritised;
  • 77% would be happy to test themselves at home;  
  • 82% want more discussion of testing options when being referred; 
  • 88% want a realistic time-line for receiving results;
  • 36% said their physical health declined while waiting for tests and 34% reported their mental health was affected.

With private diagnostic services mushrooming, the Patients Assoc­iation said the main message was clear: patients view diagnostics as a fundamental part of the NHS which should be a priority. 

It is urging the Government to listen to patients’ experiences and expand community diagnostic hubs by removing NHS estate restrictions. It said: ‘With demand rising by 7% annually, the current 5% capacity target for new hubs is inadequate.’

The pressure group added: ‘As with other findings in our research, the fact that so many patients would be willing to pay to have the test they need done once again shows the importance they place on getting results and diagnosis in good time.’

Patients’ comments included: 

‘In the end, I was forced to obtain private treatment and surgery.’

‘I had a wait but I also appreciated how stretched the NHS is. However, if it had been a serious test, I would have paid privately (no, I’m not rich!).’ 

‘The diagnostics wait on the NHS is too long. Four out of five times I have had to go private.’ 

‘The NHS refused to refer me for testing due to my age, as “it wouldn’t be accepted”. I got this test privately which showed I had cysts in my breasts. It’s unfair that I had to go elsewhere to be taken seriously.’

The findings are consistent with Independent Healthcare Providers Network research showing a growing demand for private primary care and diagnostic procedures.