Research release by the Association of British Insurers has revealed that, in 2006, for the first time in recent years, the number of UK consumers subscribing to personal private medical insurance policies grew year-on-year.

The association’s data showed that, in 2006, there was a total of 3.4 million subscribers to personal private medical insurance (PMI) policies, up by 3.3% over 2005. This comprised one million personal and 2.3 million corporate subscribers, up 1.8% and 4.1%, respectively, over 2005.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), personal and corporate PMI plans now cover 5.9 million UK adults and children. Gross earned premiums in 2006 totaled almost GBP 3.1 billion, up by 4.4% over 2005. Individual premiums rose by 4.2%, while corporate premiums rose by 4.6%.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance and health, said: It is encouraging that more individuals are choosing to buy PMI for themselves and their families. PMI bought by companies on behalf of their employees has continued to increase in popularity too, helping to ensure that people can get back to work sooner after illness or injury.

Fergus Kee, managing director of Bupa UK Health Insurance, commented: The ABI’s figures confirm the continued relevance and importance of private healthcare. Our research shows that for 65% of Britons, access to clean hospitals is the most important reason for taking out PMI. The other top reasons people gave include no waiting, speed of access to specialists and the ability to see the same consultant throughout their treatment.

The Bupa Health of the Nation Survey, which questioned 1,049 UK consumers between February and March 2007, also found that 74% of people with PMI would recommend it to their family and friends.