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There’s something that happens as you get older, an imperceptible shift from youthful vitality to the stiffness and groaning-when-you-bend-down advance of middle age. One moment you’re standing on the brink of your life with possibilities and scenarios stretching out as far as your imagination can see. You go out and seize those moments, embark on a career, do a bit of travelling, maybe fall in love and start a family. The next moment you wake up and realise you don’t know who that band on the radio are, you don’t understand why those youngsters are wearing those bizarre looking clothes, you hear slang words that make as much sense as a foreign language. You realise you are no longer young.

Much is made of our society’s obsession with youth. We are wise to the fact that being mature has an unfavourable exchange rate against the currency of being young. Instead of revering our old folk for their hard-won wisdom and experience we celebrate, especially through media and advertising, the cult of eternal youth.

The anti-aging business is big money. Witness the beauty industry now peddling wrinkle-reducing lotions and potions to increasing numbers of men alongside the traditional female market. Of course outward appearance is the window dressing. It’s what’s going on inside that becomes our main worry with the onset of old age, and, while ill-health is not an inevitable by-product of aging most of us will require extra medical attention as the years progress.

For the first time in history, according to the Office for National Statistics, Britons over 65 now outnumber people under 16.

But wait! There is nothing to fear because we have the wonderful, pioneering, envy-of-the-rest-of–the-world NHS. Simply make an appointment to receive world-class, universal free healthcare for all. So what is the point of private medical insurance (PMI)?

Research shows that people invest in PMI primarily to avoid the lengthier waiting lists associated with the NHS. Also because they believe that private hospitals will be cleaner and so patients reduce the risk of contracting a ‘superbug’ such as MRSA. Another factor is a desire to side step the so-called postcode lottery and gain access to fast-track consultations and, in the event of serious illness, access to drugs and treatments that are not available on the NHS. PMI is also about the added extras that some policies feature such as complementary medicines, private ambulances, home nursing and high nurse-to-patient ratios.

All these factors ensure that not only is diagnosis and treatment carried out quickly by specialist experts using the latest equipment and drugs but also that your return to health is made as comfortable as possible. If you can convalesce in a clean, private room with nurses that are not over-stretched, be treated to high-quality food and added extras like a morning newspaper of your choice; recovery can be an almost pleasant experience. More importantly, it gives you every chance of being back on your feet in less time. A speedy return to work and normal life is extremely important to anyone in work or those with dependent children or parents.

The fact is, if you become seriously ill the NHS will be there for you and in an emergency you won’t necessarily get treatment any faster with PMI. Then again, who wouldn’t opt for the private room complete with en-suite, that PMI could offer for the times when the NHS can’t provide it faster?

So, to answer the question of what is the point? Think of it as the icing on the cake or rather the extra-soft bandage on the sore knee.

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