The NHS – a fixture of the British way of life for over 70 years – prides itself in providing comprehensive treatment to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. But more than 1 in 10 people – 6.6 million in fact – are currently on a waiting list for routine medical procedures, with around 332,000 waiting for over a year. The average waiting time for a GP appointment in England is 10 days but that can fluctuate widely depending on the time of year, and can rise to 19 days during busy times.
It’s no wonder that more and more people are turning to private health care. The Private Healthcare Information Network reports that there were over 250,000 self-funded treatments in the UK in 2021. This number does not include those who have private medical insurance – these are the people paying the full cost of treatment themselves.
Is it Worth Taking Out Private Medical Insurance?
Also known as private health insurance, if you don’t already have it as part of your employee benefits package and you can afford to pay the premiums, you might decide it’s worth paying extra to have more choice over when and how your care is provided. If you don’t want to use the NHS, it can be very expensive to get private treatment without it – especially for serious conditions.
Like all insurance, the cover you get from private medical insurance depends on the policy you buy. Basic private medical insurance policies usually cover the costs of most in-patient treatments (tests and surgery) and day-care surgery. Some policies extend to out-patient treatments (such as specialists and consultants) and might pay you a small fixed amount for each night you spend in an NHS hospital. You might also be able to choose a policy which covers mental health, depression, and sports injuries.
You may not need to get private medical insurance for your children since they get priority treatment on the NHS.
The Pros and Cons of Going Private
· Reduced waiting times You can use your insurance to reduce the time you spend waiting for NHS treatment, if your wait time is more than six weeks
· Specialist referrals You can ask your GP to refer you to an expert or a specialist working privately to get a second opinion or specialist treatment
· Choose your surgeon and hospital You can (in theory) choose a surgeon and hospital to suit your time and place, which isn’t possible on the NHS
· You might get better care on the NHS If you have a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease or stroke, you’ll get priority NHS treatment. NHS hospitals can be as good as, or better than, private hospitals
· Private medical insurance is expensive And premiums will go up as demand rises
· Chronic illnesses and pre-existing medical conditions aren’t usually covered
There’s a lot of choice in the market, and cover can vary significantly between different providers. So it’s worth speaking to a financial adviser or a broker to help you find the cover you need.
About the Author: Helen Say is a freelance copywriter and blogger www.cblservices.co.uk