UK-based mutual society National Friendly has called on healthcare brokers to ensure their clients are adequately protected in the face of rising NHS delays and potential GP practice closures.

The call comes as recent research from an online GP poll revealed that 10% of GPs believe their practice is at risk of closing in the next 12 months.

If these predictions become a reality, National Friendly said more than 5m patients in England will have to look for a new GP due to surgery closures.

The poll mirrors results of a larger British Medical Association poll earlier this year which found that 10% of GP practices were financially unsustainable.

The latest figures on NHS waiting time statistics further add to the argument, with times for referrals to treatment increasing both monthly and annually. 

Recent figures have been the highest numbers since records began in August 2010, showing that there were 196,246 delayed days in the month, compared to 147,738 last year.

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Given this situation, National Friendly would therefore like brokers to proactively engage with their clients who are worried about the threats they could face from an over-stretched NHS, to explain how private medical insurance can bypass the waiting lists and give patients access to speedy diagnosis and treatment.

Jonathan Long, CEO at National Friendly, said:For the NHS the winter months can mean a seasonal increase in demand, which can lead to significant delays in waiting times. Brokers have an opportunity to ensure that their clients have access to the services they need, however, by helping them find a PMI policy that meets their individual requirements.”

He added that as the UK’s demographic continues to change, there is a greater role for private medical insurance to work collaboratively with our public health service.