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People buying health insurance in the UK are getting younger according to new data

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The average age of a policy holder is down by 20% in the past year

The average age of those investing in private medical insurance (PMI) via comparison site GoCompare has gone down from 40 to 33 in the past year.

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It means those buying policies between January and September 2021 were 20% younger than those who purchased private healthcare in the same timeframe in 2020.

Richard Jones, of GoCompare health insurance, said: “Perceptions around private medical insurance were already changing, but there has certainly been a noticeable shift in the way people are actively investing in healthcare since Covid-19 arrived in the UK.

“It has been well documented that waiting times for public health services have been significantly affected by the pandemic, as well as an increase in A&E admissions as a result of people having to wait longer for treatment.”

“Conversely, on the ground we are seeing a new generation of consumer coming to the market who are more inclined to include private health insurance in their monthly outgoings,” Richard added.

Waiting times for planned hospital procedures through public services now reportedly range from 30 weeks to over a year in some areas as NHS medics continue working to clear the back log created by Covid 19.

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Patients are meanwhile reporting the use of loans, savings and, in some cases, crowd funding campaigns to have procedures carried out here in the UK or overseas in lieu of having private medical insurance in place.

Taking out a private medical insurance policy can help cover the cost of private treatment for pre-agreed conditions through the payment of a monthly or annual premium, and can support a quicker diagnosis and other routine treatments.

Richard said: “Healthcare insurance has always been available for consumers in the UK to access a range of healthcare and treatment options outside of those provided by the NHS, and many families will already have been making full use of their policies throughout the pandemic.

“But for others less familiar with how private healthcare works, what it actually covers and how premiums are calculated, investing in a private medical insurance policy could feel like a bit of a minefield, not least in the current climate.

“It’s important to remember, for example, that for chronic conditions and pre-existing conditions, or in emergency situations, there will always be a need to access public health services even if you are considering taking out a private policy,” Richard added.

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“It’s our responsibility as those working within the industry to help these consumers navigate their way around the kind of cover options available, what each policy offers and help them to understand what is and isn’t covered by health insurance generally, therefore, as greater numbers look towards private health insurance to support them and their loved ones at the present time.”

Private medical insurance can be provided for on an individual, family, joint or international basis, and is also offered by some employers as an added benefit too.

Conditions covered within a policy will vary depending on the kind of cover provided for, but might typically include in-patient treatments like routine health checks, tests, overnight hospital stays, out-patient treatment and more.

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Carmarthenshire

Health boards warn of major computer system outage affecting 111 and out of hours GP services

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Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay University Health Boards have both issued a warning of a major computer outage that is that is used to refer patients from NHS 111 Wales to out-of-hours GP providers.

This system is used by Local Health Boards to coordinate services for patients. The health board say that the ongoing outage is significant and has been far reaching, impacting each of the four nations in the UK.

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Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay say that in response to the outage, health boards and their partners across Wales have developed and deployed plans so services can continue to operate.

They warn that the weekend will be a busier time than usual for NHS 111 Wales, and there are things that the public can do to help as work is done to resolve the issue.

Should the public continue to use 111?

Yes. As always, the public is encouraged to start with online help at 111.wales.nhs.uk where there is trusted health advice and information available, including more than 70 symptom checkers for many ailments and minor injuries.

What will be my experience if calling 111?

The weekend is a high demand period and processes have been put in place to continue to provide services. Capacity is being maximised by the Welsh Ambulance Service who answer 111 calls, and by Local Health Boards who provide the out-of-hours service. It may take longer for calls to be answered and we thank the public for their patience.

What can the public do to help?

Taking steps now to avoid needing to call 111 will #HelpUsHelpYou. If anyone has a medication concern, we encourage them to contact their GP today during working hours. If it is not an urgent concern, you can also speak to your local pharmacist about medications. You can find your GP and pharmacy opening hours at 111.wales.nhs.uk.

If you are calling 111 for health information, we ask people to think carefully about whether the enquiry is urgent. Remember that 111.wales.nhs.uk has lots of trusted health information and is a good source for many questions that you may have about common health concerns, chronic conditions, treatments, mental and physical health and much more.

The health boards say that people should consider the full range of options that are available to them in their local community which could include visiting your pharmacist for minor ailments and medicine matters.

They add that Ambulance and Emergency Departments remain very busy, and stress that it is still important to protect these services and they should continue to be used for life-threatening and serious emergencies only.

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(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Hywel Dda NHS

Health minister visits new Llanelli day surgery units nearing completion

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Work is nearing completion on the new Day Surgery Unit at Prince Philip Hospital, in Llanelli, which the health board says will help reduce surgical waiting lists for patients in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has delivered the scheme thanks to £20m of Welsh Government funding.

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Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, visited the unit on Friday (5 July), which is due to welcome patients during September 2022.

She said: “Investing in new facilities such as the day surgery unit at Prince Philip Hospital is a vital part of our ambitious strategy to transform planned care in Wales.

“This new unit will help to see thousands of people in need of surgical treatment in the Hywel Dda health board area, as well as those from neighbouring health boards, and will bring more resilience and capacity for NHS Wales to care for people when they need it.”

The unit, includes two theatres, designed specifically to reduce risk of infection by generating a continuous flow of bacteria free air, as well as preparation rooms, anaesthetic rooms, changing facilities and a recovery area.

Ultimately the theatres will have capacity to run six days of the week and will cover specialties including orthopaedics, general surgery, urology and vascular surgery, although this work will be phased.

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Although based in Llanelli, the health board say that the theatres will provide care for patients across the Hywel Dda region and for patients on the borders with Powys and Swansea health boards.

Consultant surgeon and Clinical Director for Scheduled Care Mr Ken Harries said: “We are looking ultimately for around four to five thousand patients to receive procedures in this unit annually. We are ambitious on behalf of our communities and are extending our theatre sessions and days to maximise efficiency and see patients, some of whom have had to sometimes wait significant amounts of time.

“There is a continued challenge of getting the workforce to help us deliver this, but that is a challenge we share with the NHS across the country and one which we are putting all our efforts into. We hope this first-class facility and our approach to recovery, will attract future recruits.

“An added advantage this unit will give us is that it is stand alone, which protects it from impacts within the main hospital wider activity, this will be of huge benefit to patients coming into the unit and for our staff also.”

Executive Director of Strategic Development and Operational Planning Lee Davies added: “This has been an ambitious project, driven by a shared desire to rapidly provide additional facilities for patients across our region to receive their treatment. It is part of our wider recovery plan to rapidly address waiting lists which have grown during the pandemic, which we know is of significant concern to our residents and a key priority for this health board.”

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(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Neath Port Talbot

The doctor will see you now: 21 new consultation rooms open at Neath Port Talbot Hospital

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Swansea Bay health board have announced an extra 21 consultation rooms have been opened in Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s outpatients department to help tackle its 56,000 patient waiting list backlog.

The move has seen the hospital’s Ward G, formerly a mental health ward for older people, undergo a refurbishment to transform the space into the additional outpatient facility.

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Mental health services for older people were recently transferred to Tonna Hospital, which the health board said meant Ward G became available for much-needed outpatient clinic use.

The new outpatient suite is located in a separate building, with its own entrance accessible from car parks, at the back of the hospital.

It will initially house urology and rheumatology clinics – alongside phlebotomy as soon as staff are in place. Eventually the health board hopes to cater for a wider range of outpatients including neuro rehab as well as supporting spinal, orthopaedics and gastro clinics.

The number of patients awaiting an outpatient appointment across Swansea Bay is at an all-time high, with over 56,000 patients waiting for a first appointment at the end of April 2022.

NPT Hospital staff survey one of the new consultation rooms (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The pandemic has contributed to this volume because so many appointments have been restricted over the past two years. The health board has also repurposed a large proportion of the original Outpatient area in Morriston Hospital to support critical services through Covid-19.

The space is now being permanently used for unplanned, urgent care to treat more people quickly and effectively, in line with the Changing for the Future plans which include Morriston as the centre of excellence for urgent and emergency care.

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Inese Robotham, Swansea Bay’s Chief Operating Officer, said the move at Neath Port Talbot Hospital was part of a much bigger plan to tackle waiting lists. She explained:

“The move is part of our Recovery and Sustainability Plan which identifies a need to improve and transform the way we deliver outpatient services, harnessing digital technology and patient directed care to reduce waiting lists.

“However, there is still a requirement to see patients face to face and therefore, a number of projects to increase capacity are underway. These include the new outpatients facility in Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

“We are aiming to maximise outpatient potential, and are reviewing accommodation across the organisation to ensure maximum utilisation of space and care is delivered at the right place at the right time.”

Temporary signage points to the entrance of the new outpatients ward at the rear of the hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Jessica Jones, a project manager for Swansea Bay’s transformation team, said that the work in Neath Port Talbot Hospital will help address growing waiting lists, with further improvements to come.

She said: “This does not fully re-instate the health board’s pre-Covid capacity but will significantly support specialties in delivering vital outpatient clinics. There are also plans to convert other areas to increase outpatient capacity following the implementation of the acute medical services redesign.

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“More than 40 outpatient clinic rooms were re-purposed for other uses as part of the Covid response, so the additional 21 rooms in Neath Port Talbot Hospital offer much needed capacity to help tackle the waiting list.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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