The Union Jack flag waves on top of the Bank of England in London, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates by as much as half a percentage point. That would outpace the latest hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The move on Thursday comes as the central bank seeks to tame decades-high inflation that has driven a cost-of-living crisis and predictions of recession.
Here's why the UK economy is doing so badly
16:43 - Source: CNN
London CNN  — 

Tens of thousands of nurses and nearly 12,000 ambulance workers went on strike Monday over pay and working conditions in the biggest walkout in the 75-year history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

Escalating industrial action comes after years of falling wages, stretched budgets and staff shortages that have left the NHS in a state of crisis, with waiting times for treatment at a record high. At the same time, an aging population needs its services more than ever.

That unhappy mix is fueling a boom in demand for private health care from a much broader swathe of the UK population than ever before — a fundamental shift for a nation with one of the world’s best-known universal health systems.

“Our providers are telling us that people are going private, many for the first time, and the key factor driving that is the challenge in accessing NHS care,” said David Furness, policy director at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, an industry body for private healthcare companies.

Nurses of the University College Hospital protest in London on  Monday, February 6, 2023.

At the end of November, a record 7.2 million patients in England were waiting for non-urgent medical treatment on the NHS, known as “elective” care. This spans diagnostic tests and scans, procedures such as hip and knee replacements, but also cardiac surgery, cancer treatment and neurosurgery.

More than half of those on the list had been waiting up to 18 weeks and about 400,000 patients had been waiting more than a year, according to data from NHS England.

To avoid joining a waiting list, more and more people are paying for their own private medical care or taking out health insurance.

In the second quarter of 2022, the number of patients paying directly for private hospital care increased 34% compared with the same period in 2019 to reach 67,000, according to the Private Healthcare Information Network, which collects data on UK private healthcare.