Healthcare is a vital component of UK society. With roughly £200 billion spent each year on healthcare, it easily manages to be the largest single sector of the economy, measuring roughly 10% of the gross domestic product. With more than one million employees via the NHS and nearly two million employed in social care, the health and functionality of this sector is crucial in many ways.
Irrespective of its prominent role in the economy and in society, many people have reservations and apprehension about the quality and credibility of doctors and hospitals. Despite expert training and knowledge in their various fields of medicine, many people are afraid to see a doctor, do not trust health professionals to look after their loved one, or even fight to eliminate major healthcare presences such as the NHS.
Why do so many members of the public have reservations about the healthcare sector? The answers are various and complex, but understandable in most cases. As such, understanding these concerns is important to addressing their perceptions and improving healthcare outcomes in the UK.
Incidents of Medical Negligence
Those who have experienced medical negligence or know somebody who has will obviously have some apprehension about seeing a doctor or even trusting healthcare advice in general. Thousands of people file at least one medical negligence claim each year, with medical negligence solicitors handling these claims by carefully assessing the procedures and events that transpired.
Estimates suggest that as much as £30 billion would be needed to handle all medical malpractice claims against the NHS, comparable to one-third of its annual budget. This suggests an endemic problem that is widespread, thereby causing many to distrust the healthcare system at-large.
The sheer scope of medical negligence in the UK that medical negligence lawyers must navigate on an annual basis means that a variety of professionals exist to assist patients with finding positive resolutions. Many firms even offer a free advice line for both clients and members of the public who are looking for an expert to speak to (an example of this can be seen with The Medical Negligence Experts). The best medical negligence solicitors process thousands of medical negligence claims residents file, with most patients receiving justifiable settlements.
It should come as no surprise that very few people want to see a medical professional or visit a hospital. However, for some, it is more than a simple case of inconvenience. A wide variety of fears and phobias – the most common among them being iatrophobia – keep countless people from seeking medical attention every single year.
One report by Cancer Research indicates that a majority of those over the age of 50 are resistant to see any medical professional for symptoms they may find troubling. In fact, the survey showed that around 1% of participant had so-called “red flag symptoms” such as weight loss and sores that wouldn’t heal: common symptoms that indicate cancer and a variety of other potentially fatal diseases.
While not everybody who refuses to see a doctor suffers from an irrational fear or phobia, the broader problem of anxiety and stress about seeking medical attention is real and very prevalent. In fact, researchers estimate that more than 1,000 people die every single year in the UK because they did not seek medical attention for otherwise easily-treatable conditions.
Past Bad Experiences
Whether dealing with NHS or with private healthcare, there’s a good chance of you or someone you know having a less-than-ideal experience. Whether it be conflicting information, poor results, excessive wait times or something entirely different, these experiences are all too common in the UK. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bad experience for someone to become apprehensive about future visits to the doctor or hospital.
Furthermore, the stories told by friends and family members reinforce the narrative that doctors and hospitals do not care or just do not know what they’re doing. This can further reinforce the decisions by many who do not wish to see a medical professional and create new doubts among those who did not previously share those concerns.
Ultimately, with a plethora of medical professionals, hospitals, and healthcare workers in the UK, a few bad stories are bound to happen. This small percentage of healthcare experiences generally do not reflect the overall outcomes experienced by patients, but nevertheless, it only takes a few bad experiences to cause many reservations among the general public.
While the NHS provides most coverage to UK residents, it does not cover every single healthcare cost. Prescriptions, for example, cost a few pounds per fill or refill. Many forms of dental treatment may not be covered, depending on what exactly your dentist’s opinion is on the matter. While some people are guaranteed free eye tests, not everybody is able to obtain one or receive a free optical voucher.
There are also other costs to consider, even if the procedure itself is covered. One notable example is travel: getting to and from the doctor or hospital is something each patient must cover on their own. Furthermore, any work-related losses in pay or accommodations for overnight stays away from home are also not covered.
The financial stresses of receiving healthcare – even under the NHS – are real and can drive many people into avoiding healthcare procedures. Even when the costs are minimised, what may not seem like much cost to some may be a huge cost to others. This explains why a disproportionate share of those who avoid doctors and hospitals are poor or working-class.
The presence of NHS and public healthcare, in general, are met with various types of scepticism due to the way in which it is funded. While more than sixty percent of those in the UK support the National Health Service, that leaves a rather large minority of citizens who oppose its presence for various reasons.
One major reason is due to the level of taxation required to support it. Despite reports documenting that the NHS is underfunded in many respects, for some, the amount collected to pay for existing services is already too much. Many of these individuals do not have personal apprehension about seeing doctors and physicians, but rather, object to the existence of UK healthcare in its current state.
With approximately four percent of GDP being collected via taxes to support NHS, some protest its collection and believe that the funds would be better used in the hands of individuals. Despite the relative efficiency of the NHS compared to other countries (for example, the US collects the equivalent of 7% of GDP to pay for Medicaid and Medicare, which only covers around 35% of the population), many also have sheer ideological disagreements with the government providing healthcare solutions.
Despite an aggregate evaluation that suggests the UK healthcare system works as intended, many people have profound apprehension about seeking care or supporting its existence. From reservations about taxation and personal ability to pay to fears passed down by anecdotes and the presence of medical negligence, there are many reasons why the public doesn’t trust the healthcare system.
Thankfully, there are many dedicated and skilled workers in this sector whose daily actions help to rebut these fears and work diligently to ensure their patients are treated properly. As the quality of medicine and technology continues to improve, healthcare outcomes are likely to do so as well, thereby alleviating many of the root causes of these fears and improving the public’s perception of the healthcare sector.