NHS resources are under pressure, a situation which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, so those requiring medical assistance are often finding they have to wait months for a doctor’s appointment or referral, while operations are routinely postponed.

It is therefore no surprise that record numbers of people are turning to private healthcare, even though there is a cost-of-living crisis. Around 272,000 people self-funded an operation or diagnostic procedure at a private hospital in the UK last year, according to the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), with more than double that number having their treatment paid for via a private medical insurance policy.

If you are lucky, your employer will offer private healthcare as a perk to its staff, covering you and your family should you need medical assistance. This should give you quick access to private healthcare from an initial assessment through to diagnosis, treatment and aftercare; you may even be able to choose which specialist you see and which private hospital you are treated at, depending on the policy. There may also be cover for mental health issues.

However, not all employers offer private healthcare schemes, and if your employer doesn’t, or you are self-employed, then you may be interested in taking out an individual policy which covers you and your family. Private healthcare has a reputation for being eye-wateringly expensive, but much depends on the level of cover you opt for, plus, of course, it is very important to use a broker who will compare policies. If you are self-employed, you need to consider how much time you can afford to miss off work if you are ill – private cover may help minimise the time when you are not able to earn money.

While taking out an individual policy can be expensive, an added benefit for the self-employed is that if you run your healthcare scheme via your limited company it is eligible for tax relief as it is classed as business expenditure, making it more cost-effective than private healthcare. A personal scheme can be set up to cover you and your family, or if you are a small business owner, it is worth setting up a group scheme so that you offer healthcare as a perk to staff. Not only will it help attract and retain employees, it should also reduce the number of days staff are off ill as a fit, healthy workforce is crucial to the success of your business. If many staff are off sick, it can take a toll on your other employees.

AWS Private Finance has seen a significant increase in enquiries about private healthcare since the pandemic. It is worth booking a meeting with an adviser to find out the best insurer offering the right cover for you and your family and/or your employees. Schemes and level of cover vary depending on what policy you need and what you can afford, but plans are flexible and can be tailored to suit.