British insurer Aviva reported a rise in sales of its private health cover on Wednesday, as new data also showed patients turning to private health care in record numbers, while the NHS struggles with waiting times.

In a business update, the FTSE 100 insurance company said its private healthcare sales rose 25 per cent to £33m in the first quarter of the year as NHS build-up encouraged more people to go private.

“While the NHS does a great job for millions of people, there are people who would like to expedite their treatment, or have the confidence that if something were to happen to them, they want to receive that expedited treatment,” Aviva said. executive director amanda blanc he told the Financial Times. “Volumes are very strong and to be honest we don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Aviva has accepted about 123,000 new private medical clients in the past year, he said. Its products include a virtual GP service that has been attractive to people struggling to get an appointment with their local practice, she added.

“I think private healthcare should be seen as a positive complement to the NHS in clearly difficult times,” Blanc said. Aviva’s health and protection business generated £2.5bn in revenue last year.

The number of people waiting to start hospital treatment reached a record earlier this monthwith figures released by NHS England showing that 7.3 million patients had not yet started treatment at the end of March.

Research published on Wednesday by the Private Health Care Information Network (PHIN) also revealed that there were 820,000 private hospital and day patient admissions in the UK in 2022, the highest number since the organization that tracks data from Treatment began collecting these records in 2016.

The annual total increased 8 percent from the prior year and represented a 5 percent increase from 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 200,000 people went private in Q4 2022, also setting a record for any single quarter.

The PHIN reported that the procedures paid with private health insurance reached the highest level since the start of the pandemic. There were more self-pay admissions, where people choose to finance their own health care instead of using private health insurance, in 2022 than in recent years.

PHIN Chief Executive Ian Gargan predicts there will be more than 1 million private sector patients this year and expects private health insurance to become more popular. “In a cost of living crisis, people are still willing to pay and prioritize their health,” he said.

Gargan believes that the main causes behind the increase in demand are public awareness of NHS waiting lists and uncertainty about how long they will have to wait. “People know they can be waiting a long time for a cataract or a knee replacement,” she added. “They feel like if they haven’t heard from someone for a long time, they’ve been forgotten.”

Spire Healthcare, a London listed company independent health groupin March reported an 8 percent increase in revenue in its preliminary results for the year ending December 31, 2022. It said the increase was driven by increased private treatment, with private revenue rising 14, 5 percent.

Its chief executive, Justin Ash, said at the time that “there has been a continued change in UK healthcare over the past year, with more people seeking fast and safe private care.” The Spire perspective added that private patient consultations were ahead of the previous year.

International healthcare company Bupa also reported that demand for private health insurance had risen in its full-year results released in March.

Investors, meanwhile, were unimpressed by Aviva’s broader first-quarter performance, with stormy markets weighing on its property business and its solvency ratio coming in slightly below analysts’ forecasts.

It also emerged on Wednesday that Cevian Capital, the activist investor, had sold all his share in Aviva, three years after launching her campaign.

Shares of the insurer fell 5 percent in afternoon trading.

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