Sales of private medical insurance (PMI) could be given a boost if the Tories come to power. At the annual party conference in Blackpool this week, the shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox pledged that a Conservative government would pay 60% of patients' private medical treatment costs.

The announcement comes at a time when nearly three-quarters of people are concerned about NHS waiting times.

A recent survey by Legal & General (L&G) found that 73% of those surveyed specified NHS waiting times as one of the areas of NHS healthcare provision that most concerned them.

Other areas of concern included lack of nurses (61%) and lack of doctors (56%).

L&G head of healthcare development Steve Bryan said: "These findings will make it easier to sell PMI.

It shows people still have concerns about the NHS.

"It reinforces the marketing messages we have been using."

Bryan also welcomed the Tories' proposals for government contributions to private treatment: "It would boost distribution of PMI. It would encourage those people who had been thinking about PMI but had been put off by the cost. "

But Bryan stressed that the fine details of such a proposal would need to be considered.