The National Health Service turns 70 in 2018, and Westfield Health celebrates reaching 100 the following year. I've been doing some reading on how these venerable institutions started, and how they've evolved over the years to meet the changing healthcare needs of a population that's ageing and growing.
From humble beginnings.
Founded in 1919, Westfield Health started life as the ‘Sheffield Consultative and Advisory Hospitals Council' and was formed to help the city's four self-financing hospitals, all of which were desperately short of money after the First World War. In 1921 we launched our ‘Penny in the Pound' scheme, enabling working people, no matter how humble their earnings, to receive free hospital treatment in return for a weekly contribution of a penny in each pound they earned, with their employers contributing a third of any money raised. By working with us, employers were able to help their employees keep themselves and their families in good health.
The NHS was launched in 1948 out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. With the introduction of the NHS, the purpose of the Penny in the Pound scheme ended, but whilst many parallel schemes across the country ceased, Westfield Health evolved to meet the changing health landscape and continued on, with benefits and services that complemented the great work of the NHS. We grew into the award winning health and wellbeing provider we are today, working with over 400,000 customers and 8,000 companies nationwide. We continue to be staunch supporters of the NHS, and as a not-for-profit company, we strongly believe in giving back, and have donated over £14m to the NHS and medically related charities in the last 20 years.
Public healthcare at a crossroads
Now in 2017, we are at another crossroads, as the NHS finds itself under greater strain than ever before. Whilst modern medicine and treatment is transforming lives, the financial pressures of a growing and ageing population, alongside rising public expectations of the level of care they receive, finds the NHS working hard to adapt in order to remain sustainable.
You may have read some articles earlier this year featuring the news that NHS patients in England would face longer waits for non-emergency hospital operations in a ‘trade off' for improved care in A&E and quicker cancer diagnosis. Non-emergency treatments cover everything from minor surgery and cataract operations, to knee and hip replacements, and the target of 92% of patients being treated within 18 weeks of referral has not been met since February 2016. There are currently over 360,000 patients who have been waiting longer than that, which is one in ten of the total, a proportion that has almost doubled in four years.
What's more, in February, The Guardian reported that in an unprecedented move, one NHS body had suspended non-urgent surgery for 100 days in a bid to save £3.2 million, whilst only this month, The Independent reported that two NHS clinical commissioning groups were denying non-urgent surgery to obese patients until they lose weight. Both CCG's will also only refer smokers for surgery once they have stopped smoking for eight weeks.
Anticipating this growing issue a few years ago, we're continuing our evolution, to support the NHS and the communities around us with products and services that help fill the gap.
Prompt access to surgery for the many, not just the few.
Private Medical Insurance (PMI) is often seen as the aspirational ‘gold standard' of private healthcare, but with expensive premiums, it's not necessarily an option that's within reach for most of us. So we created our own unique ‘budget' private health insurance, designed specifically to help relieve NHS waiting lists and enable as many people as possible to access non-urgent surgery quickly, and at an affordable price.
With two levels of cover to choose from, our private surgery cover includes most surgical procedures except those for treating cancer and heart conditions. Cancer and heart conditions are prioritised by the NHS and by excluding them we can keep our premiums much more affordable than traditional PMI. Our premiums also don't increase with claims.
So with NHS waiting lists not looking like they'll be getting any shorter anytime soon, by choosing this cover for your staff, you're supporting their health and wellbeing and getting them back to work quicker too. Accessing treatment this way also helps relieve pressure on the NHS. In fact, many non-urgent surgical procedures on the NHS are also currently carried out through private hospitals under an agreement between the NHS and private hospitals.
More information on our private surgery options can be found by clicking on the links above or calling us on 0114 250 2358.