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Patients avoid NHS for privacy

Only 29 per cent of people who opted for private medical care knew how long they would have had to wait for free treatment on the National Health Service, according to a study presented to the meeting.

Nearly two-thirds of those who went private did so without knowing in advance how much it would cost, according to Professor Joan Higgins and Dr Rose Wiles, of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at Southampton University, who surveyed 650 private patients in the Wessex area.

GPs played little part in their patients' decision to go private and did not tell patients of the options open to them.

Privacy was an important reason for going private - self-employed people wanted to continue conducting their business from their hospital beds. Another was choice of dates for treatment, particularly appealing to women looking after children or relatives.