While the UK is one of the few countries in the world where medical treatment is free at the point of need due to the NHS, there are many reasons to consider choosing private treatment for some conditions. Whether you are not satisfied with the treatment available on the NHS, want to get a second opinion, or want to avoid a long NHS waiting list, going private can help. Private treatment allows you to get faster access to the medical treatment that you need, a wider choice of where you want to be treated, and a choice of private specialist or consultant. In some cases, you may also have access to treatments that are not available through the NHS.
Why Choose Private Treatment?
Private healthcare in the UK can usually be carried out much faster compared to what the NHS can offer for non-life threatening conditions. Your appointments and consultations can be carried out at times and in places that suit you best, and during the recovery period, you will often get access to a more comfortable, private room with an en-suite with fewer restrictions on visitors.
Choosing a Private Hospital or Clinic
To choose the right private hospital or clinic for you, it’s important to start with doing your research. Compare what each hospital has to offer, how they are different from each other, and the philosophy of care offered by each one. Specialist services may also be important to you depending on the type of care that they need, and it’s important to choose a facility that is in a convenient location for you. If you are getting private health insurance, your insurer will typically have a list of hospitals and clinics in your area that they cover for you to choose from. You can also use the Private Healthcare UK database to find private hospitals in your area.
Factors to Consider
Some of the main factors to think about before you decide regarding the private hospital or clinic to get your treatment at include:
- Does the hospital or clinic specialise in the treatment you need?
- What are patient satisfaction scores like for the hospital or clinic?
- Which support services can you access after undergoing treatment?
- Which accreditation standards and quality standards are met by the hospital?
- If something goes wrong, what is the availability of the intensive care or high dependency units?
- Are infection rates and return to theatre rates published by the hospital?
- How are costs affected if there are complications that require you to stay in the hospital for longer?
Going Private without Health Insurance
You can go for private treatment if you do not have health insurance, but you will need to find a means to pay for your treatment. A self-paying patient will usually pay for the treatment with cash, card or cheque either on or before being admitted to the hospital. However, it’s important to be aware that this can become very expensive if your health problem is not straightforward and you are required to see different specialists before the issue can be treated.
If you do not have health insurance, you will usually follow a similar process to patients that do. You’ll need a recommendation and referral letter to a specialist from your GP. You’ll then go to an appointment with the consultant for an initial consultation and tests if needed. This usually costs up to £250 and will normally be paid on the day of your consultation or soon after. If you need further treatment, the cost of this will be explained to you. You may also be able to see your private consultant or healthcare professional within an NHS hospital, which can be a cheaper option. If you are satisfied with the quote, your treatment will be booked. You’ll need to make a full or partial payment before your treatment is carried out.
Going Private with Health Insurance
If you want help with covering the cost of private healthcare, there are several different types of private health insurance plans that you can get in the UK. You can easily search for the best private health insurance for you through Switch Health; an insurance broker that will provide you with a wide range of health insurance quotes for you and your family’s needs.
Bear in mind that most private health insurance policies will not cover patients for pre-existing conditions or chronic health conditions that are not curable. They are also unlikely to cover services that can easily and quickly be accessed on the NHS such as ante-natal care after a healthy pregnancy and birth or accident and emergency services. Most health insurance companies will require you to get a referral from your GP to authorise your private healthcare treatment. This may also be required by the consultant or private hospital as they will need to be aware of your medical history in regards to this condition.
When you have private health insurance and want to be referred to private treatment, you should first visit your NHS GP to ask for a referral. Then, contact your insurance company to check that the treatment is covered and get authorisation from them. You’ll then attend an appointment with the consultant and agree on your treatment. Your GP and insurance company will be informed, and the insurance company will settle the bills. You’ll be informed of any charges that are payable by you.
How to Prepare for Private Healthcare Treatment
If you have been informed that you need to see a consultant for your condition and you would prefer to get private treatment, you can take your NHS test results, information, and other details with you so that you do not need to get repeat tests. Self-paying patients should be ready to cover the cost of the consultation fee on the day, and insured patients should have registration documents and proof of pre-authorisation from their insurance company to hand.
Your consultant will usually provide you with instructions on how to prepare for the specific treatment that you are booked for. You will usually be asked to reduce any smoking and alcohol consumption before your hospital stay if you are booked for an operation. Make sure that your private healthcare provider is made aware if you feel unwell beforehand as it might be necessary to reschedule the operation.
Before your private hospital stay, there are some important questions to get answers to. Find out:
- What you can expect after your treatment or operation
- The risk of any complications and what they are
- How much pain to expect after the treatment, if any, and how long it is expected to last for
- The length of your hospital stay
- When visitors will be able to come and see you
- If you will need any assistance after your treatment and how long for
- When you’ll be able to return to live as normal including going home and going back to work
- If there will be any restrictions on your activities after the treatment such as exercising
- If you’ll need to return for a follow-up appointment and when that will be
While the NHS can cover the majority of treatments that you might need, there are plenty of reasons to consider going private. Whether you want a second opinion, want to try a treatment that the NHS does not offer, or want to avoid a waiting list, it can be a good alternative for patients.