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NHS waiting lists have reached a record high and a survey suggests people are worried about the effect it could have on the care they would receive if they faced an illness. It’s a concern financial planning could help ease.

The BBC reports that 7.75 million people are waiting for NHS treatment in England. It adds that almost 9,000 people have been waiting for more than 18 months to start their treatment and all cancer waiting time targets were missed. As well as planned treatment, ambulance and A&E waits also increased.

With headlines noting the pressure the NHS is facing, you might be worried about what would happen if you or a loved one needed to seek medical care.

Making health part of your financial plan could ease your concerns

A report from financial protection provider The Exeter found in 2023 almost 4 in 10 people are concerned about increasing NHS wait times. Furthermore, 37% said they were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get a same-day or face-to-face appointment with their GP if they needed one.

Budget cuts and staff pressure in the NHS perhaps mean it’s unsurprising that 27% are also anxious about the level of care they’d receive.

If it’s something you’re concerned about, there are steps you may be able to take to incorporate health into your financial plan.

1. Assess if you could benefit from health insurance

The survey found that almost half of people would not be prepared to wait on an NHS waiting list for more than three months – 18% said they would be unhappy with a wait of more than 30 days.

Private medical insurance could provide you with a way to access medical assistance without needing to wait.

You’d need to make regular premiums to an insurance provider, which would then pay for your private medical costs if you needed to access services.

The research found more than 6 in 10 UK workers have some form of private healthcare. However, how comprehensive insurance is can vary significantly. So, even if you have insurance in place, it may be worthwhile reviewing what it would cover and whether it meets your needs.

With the cost of living rising, 21% of people are concerned about the affordability of private health insurance. The premiums you pay will be influenced by a variety of factors, including age and lifestyle. Shopping around could help you secure private medical insurance for less. However, keep in mind that a cheaper policy might be less comprehensive than alternatives.

2. Create a financial safety net with an emergency fund

If you needed to take time off work due to an illness, how would you pay your day-to-day living costs?

The Exeter survey found that 19% of people wouldn’t receive any form of sick pay from their employer if they needed to take time off work. Less than a fifth of workers benefit from a sick pay policy that would pay an income for more than three months.

While you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), it usually isn’t enough to meet essential outgoings. In 2023/24, SSP is just £109.40 a week and is paid for a maximum of 28 weeks.

The findings suggest many households could suffer serious financial hardship if they face an illness.

Financial challenges when you’re ill could mean you’re unable to focus on your recovery and you might even need to return to work earlier than advised. What’s more, stressing about your finances could harm your wellbeing too.

So, taking steps to create a financial safety net when you need it most could ease some of your worries about how you’d cope if you became too ill to work.

It’s often recommended that an emergency fund contains enough to cover between three and six months of essential expenses. Reviewing your finances and what’s important to you could help you set a savings target that’s right for you.

3. Decide if financial protection could be valuable to you

Almost half of people said they were worried about the potential effect of losing their income due to an illness. Yet, only a small proportion have taken out appropriate financial protection.

Income protection would pay a reliable income if you were unable to work. The income is often linked to your salary, such as 60% of your regular income, and would be paid until you return to work, retire, or the term comes to an end.

Much like an emergency fund, appropriate financial protection could provide you with financial peace of mind so you can focus on your recovery. Yet, just 13% of survey respondents said they already had income protection. 

There are other forms of financial protection you might want to consider too. For example, critical illness cover would pay out a lump sum if you were diagnosed with a covered illness.

You will need to pay regular premiums to maintain financial protection cover, and it’s important to understand in what circumstances it would pay out to assess if it’s suitable for you.

Contact us to make your health part of your financial plan

If you’d like to discuss how you could improve your finances to offer greater security when you face a health scare, such as taking out financial protection or building an emergency fund, please get in touch.

You might want to incorporate your health into your financial plan in other ways too. Perhaps you’d like to ensure that you have enough in your pension to retire early in case you face health challenges in the future, or you’d like to have the financial security to take time away from work to care for loved ones if needed?

Your financial plan can be tailored to suit your needs and concerns. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Note that income protection and critical illness plans typically have no cash in value at any time and cover will cease at the end of the term. If premiums stop, then cover will lapse.