NHS Waiting Lists vs. ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Healthcare: Financial Risks Revealed


By signing up for “buy now, pay later” private health care deals, patients facing lengthy NHS waiting lists for scans and testing are incurring substantial debt. MRI scans, X-rays, routine surgery, and hip replacements are among the medical procedures for which patients must pay off their obligations over the course of many years in exchange for prompt care.

MRI Plus and other companies offering repayment plans inform patients, “Why wait in pain?” Reduce your NHS medication backlog times’ and ‘book now, pay later’. Scan.com, which has 150 locations worldwide and offers MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays, offers an interest-free BNPL alternative via PayPal. However, anti-debt activists and health experts are concerned that NHS backlogs could compel desperate individuals to utilize the deals. 

David Rowland, director of the Centre for Health and the Public Interest think tank, stated, ‘Policymakers must be aware of how underfunding of the NHS forces unsustainable healthcare costs back onto individuals, potentially increasing their debt. A slippery path exists. Nearly half of those with a BNPL loan had trouble keeping up with household expenses and credit repayments, and 17% met StepChange’s definition of being in extreme financial difficulty. In some instances, customers are subject to late payment fees and run the risk of having their credit rating harmed or being referred to debt collectors. 

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NHS Backlogs: BNPL Loans as Timely Access Solutions with Regulatory Exemption

Photo by: PA via Stock Photo

While the Financial Conduct Authority regulates traditional loans, interest-free loans repaid in less than 12 months, including BNPL products, are exempt. For patients, having access to credit in the midst of the current NHS backlogs can mean the difference between months of agony and anxiety and none at all. As of May 2023, NHS England data indicates that a record 7.47 million people were waiting to begin routine hospital treatment, and over 409,000 were waiting six weeks or longer for critical diagnostic tests

Klarna stated that BNPL was a more equitable, low-cost alternative to credit cards, and less than one percent of consumers did not repay their debts. MRI Plus stated that it provided affordable scans that facilitated ‘timely access’ to potentially life-saving care, and that customers had passed affordability tests. PayPal stated that it ‘believes in responsible lending’ and added that its ‘pay in three’ arrangements were interest-free loans ‘designed to offer customers more choice and flexibility’ with no late fees or other fees.

The company stated that it works to encourage people not to buy items they cannot afford. The Department of Health and Social Care stated that it was collaborating with the private sector to expand diagnostic capacity ‘immediately, closer to home, and free at the point of need’ across the nation.

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Source: Daily Mail

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