Half the UK's GPs have such little confidence in the NHS that they prefer to rely on private medical insurance (PMI) for the their own or their family's healthcare, according to a survey in the medical newspaper GP.

One-third of GPs have PMI, compared with one in ten of the rest of the population.

A further 13% of family doctors are considering taking out health insurance, the paper claims.

BUPA, Britain's largest health insurer, offers a discounted private health scheme for doctors.

It reports that applications for the scheme have risen by 5% so far this year.

GPs seeking hospital treatment have to join NHS waiting lists just like any other patient.

Further findings of the survey were that only 59% of GPs would recommend the NHS for even routine surgery to a close friend.

One doctor was quoted as saying: “The NHS is good for emergencies, but not for elective treatment.”

Others were not so complimentary. One said: “I am saddened by the poor quality of care provided by the NHS.”

Another summed up the service as “the NHS waiting list is for dying”.

And it is not only GPs who have lost faith in the NHS. More than one million civil servants, BT employees and Post Office workers are members of a private health care scheme based at a hospital in Kent.

Some senior officials at the Department of Health are among those in the Kent scheme.

Many officials at the health union Unison are also members of private health schemes, as are some of the UK's top trade union leaders.