Even before the health pandemic that hit the UK in 2020, some areas of the NHS had been struggling for some time. With an aging population that requires more medical intervention than any generation before it, and an underfunded system due to fiscal restraints, getting to sit in front of an NHS doctor or consultant has never been more of a challenge.
While for most of us, waiting for a referral to a specialist department can take a few months of waiting, the backlog of patients waiting for NHS appointments may become too much to bear. For those patients with a less urgent condition or health complaint, a six-month waiting list may not sound too bad. But for those who are suffering daily with health problems, waiting half a year for an appointment is just not an option.
If you can relate to this then you have come to the right place. We have put together all of the information you need to know about getting your appointment as soon as possible, along with some top tips on how to beat the NHS backlog queues.
Use other resources available to you
With the increasing pressure that has been put on the public healthcare system in the UK over the last 12 months, the NHS have started to encourage individuals to use a range of alternative resources to help them get the medical advice they need while waiting for their appointment. This includes a range of online information, from symptom checkers to general health and wellbeing advice.
General practitioners have now also taken some of their resources online with the ability to request appointments with doctors and nurses online to save long waiting times when ringing up their local surgery. Doctors have also been encouraging patients to reach out to their local pharmacists to help them find the right medication for their condition or complaint. This is predicted to not only help patients that are waiting in the NHS backlog queues, but also to save time for medical professionals to help them work through the backlog quicker.
Know the system
One of the most effective, and cheapest, ways to beat the NHS backlog is to know what questions to ask to get the best answers. For example, many people aren’t aware that if they are waiting for surgery, they can get in touch with the College of Health helpline to find out the waiting times for operations at their local hospital.
Once you have an idea of which hospitals in your area have the shortest waiting times for the treatment you need, you can then request for your GP to refer you to that hospital. However, you should also bear in mind that you will have to wait to be referred to a consultant, so be sure to ask your GP how long the referral waiting list is.
Seek out private healthcare
Whether you are suffering considerably because of your health complaint, or you simply dread the waiting around that getting treatment on the NHS involves, you could seek out private healthcare as an alternative. Here in the UK, most of us have grown up with the NHS to take care of us, from the cradle to the grave, and so have never previously considered going private for our treatment.
However, with the ever growing backlog of people waiting for appointments all over the UK, and queues becoming even longer since the NHS has been inundated with COVID-19 patients, more people are looking into the added benefits of going private. Private healthcare costs are not as much as you may think, and for the price of your summer holiday, you could instead get that consultation or procedure done that you would otherwise have been waiting months for.
You may be surprised to learn that there are private healthcare alternatives available for a wide range of different services. From getting a routine GP appointment, to an X-Ray, and even a cervical smear test, you don’t always have to rely on the NHS to take care of your health.
Consider healthcare insurance
While private healthcare treatment often involves having the money you need up front, you can also take out a healthcare insurance policy. Having a private health insurance policy in place means that you can get quick access to treatment as soon as you need it, and the policy will pay the costs in full. You may be surprised to learn how affordable a private healthcare policy can be for both you and the rest of the family.
Private medical insurance has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is hardly surprising with research showing that those in need of hip replacements can be waiting around 200+ days. Whereas having a private medical insurance policy in place helps you get the medical attention when you need it the most, without worrying about the cost.
If you are worried about getting the treatment you need because of the growing backlog that the NHS faces, then there are plenty of ways that you can beat the queues and return to full health as soon as possible. Remember that patience doesn’t need to be a virtue when you have all these alternative medical options available to you.