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Desperate patients turn to BNPL loans to fund medical treatment – reports

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn
Posted:
Updated:
27/11/2023

People needing urgent medical attention are going private to avoid NHS backlogs – and paying for operations and procedures with buy now pay later (BNPL) loans.

An investigation by The Observer found that patients are being encouraged to sign up to BNPL deals to cover the costs of basic healthcare.

BNPL allows people to get scans, X-rays, tests and routine surgery done now, and pay for it later by spreading the cost. Some BNPL lenders offer “quick and easy” approval with “immediate” access to funding, according to The Observer.

The newspaper investigated several diagnostics firms partnering with BNPL lenders. For example, MRI Plus works with Klarna, offering patients the option to delay payment for 30 days or split it into three interest-free instalments.

Private hospital groups Circle and Nuffield both offer medical loans from £1,000 to £25,000 via Chrysalis Finance. The BNPL alternative lets people spread payments for services over terms up to five years – with yearly interest charged at 14.9% between 24 and 60 months, and zero-interest options for shorter payment plans.

Scan.com, which offers MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and X-rays, offers an interest-free BNPL option via PayPal. The Observer spoke to managing director Dr Lizzie Tuckey who said about 5% of customers used payment plans to buy scans, which start at £350.

The medical companies and BNPL credit firms say the loans are cheap ethical options that help people manage their finances. Patients using debt to fund surgery, whether it’s cosmetic or urgent, is nothing new with loans having been offered for many years.

But debt campaigners are concerned that NHS backlogs could force people to use the deals in desperation.

David Rowland, director of think tank the Centre for Health and the Public Interest, told The Observer: “Policymakers need to be aware of how the underfunding of the NHS is pushing unsustainable healthcare costs back onto individuals, potentially increasing their indebtedness. It’s a slippery slope.”

If you take out BNPL borrowing and cannot afford to repay the money as agreed, you risk late payment fees, damage to your credit report and potential action by debt collectors.

Related: Older Brits increasingly turn to buy now, pay later for essentials


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