Comparing NHS and Private Healthcare
At Freedom Health Insurance we are passionate about patient choice and want to help people better understand the differences between the NHS and private healthcare.
Since its launch in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) has grown to become one of the world’s largest publicly funded health services and its quality of care is recognised internationally. Nevertheless, because of the increasing pressure on the NHS and the difficulties it has experienced in recent years, many people have shifted towards private medical treatment, very often using private health insurance to cover their costs. As a result, according to the research organisation Laing Buisson, the UK’s private healthcare market has grown to over £6.3bn in 2017.
Private Healthcare and NHS Waiting Times
Whenever you are looking for medical advice or need to seek treatment for a medical condition, you usually book an appointment with your NHS GP. Depending on the number of people registered with the same GP practice, this can take up to two weeks or even longer.
Wait times vary by speciality and region, and whilst the Government set targets to shorten these, the system still struggles to cope, especially for routine procedures such as hip replacements. However, in most cases, the NHS usually provides timely and world-class interventions for life critical issues such as cardiac bypasses.
With most private health insurance plans, you can now access a virtual GP and some even give you the option to choose a private GP. This means that you could be seen faster and get your treatment underway more promptly.
Comfort in Private Healthcare vs the NHS
While undergoing private treatment you are likely to have hotel-like facilities and services which may include private accommodation, ensuite bathroom, TV and a greater choice of food. You will usually benefit of non-restricted visiting hours and you are more likely to be seen by the same consultant.
In comparison, on the NHS, you may find yourself in a mixed ward, with shared bathroom and limited visiting hours and you may be seen by a member of the consultant’s team rather than the consultant themselves.
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Choice of Hospital, Treatment and Location
Private healthcare has the advantage of giving you a choice of hospital and treatment at a time and location that is convenient for you. In private care, you are usually seen within a week or so of your GP requesting a referral, and tests are arranged within a few days.
With the NHS on the other hand, you have a limited choice and the waiting lists for seeing a specialist can be very lengthy.
NHS vs Private Treatment and Drugs
Due to the cost of some niche drugs, the NHS may not pay for them. Therefore, patients may need to refer to private healthcare to access those drugs.
However, the type of treatments you have access to with private health insurance depends on the level of cover and benefits chosen. Some complex treatments may not even be available privately and have to be done on the NHS.
The Cost of Private Healthcare vs the NHS
The NHS provides free treatment to millions of people across the UK.
To access private healthcare, you can either do it as a self-pay patient, where you finance your treatment from your own pocket or use a private medical insurance plan that pays for your private care. While the first option can become expensive very quickly, getting a health insurance plan can be more affordable than you think.
Medical insurance companies, including Freedom Health Insurance, allow you to tailor your plan by choosing only the health benefits you need. Then you can further reduce your costs by choosing different excess amounts, by paying annually or even by choosing a 2-year fixed premium (available through Freedom Health Insurance) which guarantees that your price won’t increase in the first year of renewal even if you make a claim. Terms and conditions apply. Find out more about how your premium is calculated.