The nurses’ strike could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s before you mention terrifying cancer waiting lists, the drop in knee replacement surgeries (a 68 percent drop even before Covid), and the virtual disappearance of state-funded hip and cataract surgeries.
The NHS is in crisis like never before. The latest figures show that 7.2 million people are now on NHS waiting lists: that’s a staggering 12 per cent of the population. Many of us, then, wonder if, despite having contributed to the Social Security system throughout our working lives, it is finally time to go private. If we do, we will join a growing parade of rejections from the NHS.
The number of patients paying for private treatment in the UK has increased by 39 per cent in the last two years, while other last resorts travel abroad for care. In September, a survey by the charity Engage Britain found that one in 10 adults in the UK had used private healthcare in the last 12 months.
Nearly two-thirds said their reason for doing so was because they faced long delays or were unable to get the treatment they needed on the NHS. And earlier this year, Spire Healthcare, which runs 39 private hospitals in Britain, reported an 81 percent increase in self-pay spending (people paying directly for treatment, rather than using private insurance) compared with the pre-pandemic era. We are even choosing to go private for our family doctors.
A YouGov survey in May found that 7 per cent of people had used private GP services in the last two years. While 4 percent were previous users, 3 percent were first-time users. This translates to around 1.6 million people having used a paid GP for the first time. But when is the best time to go private, and how do you get started?
at the family doctor
Private GP surgeries are springing up across the country to meet the demand of disgruntled patients. “The benefit of seeing a private GP is that she can very quickly secure an appointment at a time that suits her,” says Dr Sarah Levy, an NHS GP at Bushloe Surgery in Leicestershire. “This can be very helpful in getting advice on acute medical problems that don’t require an emergency room visit, such as diarrhea or a chest infection.
“I’m happy when patients ask for a private referral because I know it will save the NHS work and the patient won’t have to wait as long to get the help they need. On the NHS, patients usually have to wait a couple of weeks for a routine appointment. “Most NHS GP surgeries offer same-day emergency appointments if you call in the morning, but availability can vary between practices.” She adds: “Patients should also be aware that a private GP may offer them a private referral to see a specialist, which will cost more.”
If you’re considering booking an appointment with a private GP, it’s worth noting that they can’t access your medical records. Dr Jason Reddy, NHS and private GP at Circle Group, says: “For chronic conditions that require long-term monitoring, such as diabetes, it’s best to see your NHS GP. “A private GP may also be unwilling to prescribe certain medications, such as strong painkillers, without first seeing your medical history.”
However, he adds, patients can submit a “subject access request” to their GP to receive a copy of their medical records. Dr Reddy also points out that private GPs are not allowed to prescribe on the NHS. “As NHS prescriptions are subsidised, you may end up paying two to three times the cost of a private prescription.” Therefore, costs can increase if you need expensive drugs in the long term.
Can you go private without a GP referral?
Although you can get private treatment without a GP referral, the British Medical Association says it’s always best to get a referral from your NHS GP because they know your full medical history. Many private doctors and private health insurers will also need you to have a referral. However, your GP does not have to refer you to a specialist if they do not think you need specialized treatment. Of course, you have the right to get a second opinion.
Dr Levy says: “Your specialist will routinely write to your NHS GP, regardless of whether they saw a private GP to begin with, to explain their treatment recommendations.”
When to wait and when to pay
This depends on the waiting list in your area and how much your problem affects your quality of life. In the South London area of private GP Dr Hana Patel, the wait for talk therapies is up to a year. Those waiting to see a cardiologist for a non-urgent appointment can face an agonizing 18-month wait.
“In these cases, and for conditions like kidney stones or hip replacements, you may choose to go private,” she says. “There are also problems that the NHS will no longer deal with, such as warts and warts, so you’ll need to go private to treat them.”
“Your GP will know which specialist you need and can often recommend who would be best to see,” says Dr Levy, adding that most of the NHS consultants she refers her patients to also work on a regular basis. private. However, the NHS remains her best option if she is concerned about cancer symptoms, as GPs have a duty to refer it for investigation within two weeks.
The other advantage of the NHS is that you can also participate in clinical trials of new drugs that are not privately available. Maternity care is another area where the NHS trumps private. “There are very few private maternity hospitals in the country,” says Dr. Reddy. “Mothers with complicated pregnancies should always follow the NHS route to receive the gold standard of care. If there is a life-threatening problem in a private hospital, the mother and child would usually be transferred to an NHS facility anyway.” Dr Patel says he would also be better off receiving NHS treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes, where he needs a full multidisciplinary team around him.
How much is it?
Prices vary depending on where you live and who you see. A 15-minute appointment with a Bupa GP will set you back £79, while a 60-minute appointment will set you back £250. Private prescriptions can also cost between £15 and £70, compared to the set fee of £ 9.35 per NHS item. Blood tests, scans and other procedures will also be charged separately.
In fact, hospital treatment can be very expensive. Private specialist healthcare and insurance information service myTribe Insurance obtained average prices from 27 private hospitals across the UK in August this year. It found costs ranging from £2,005 for a colonoscopy to £7,531 for an abdominal hysterectomy, £13,982 for a knee replacement and £16,403 for prostate cancer treatment.
An initial consultation with a private medical consultant costs £195, with prices in London costing 27 per cent more than in the rest of the UK. Psychiatrists average £300 for an initial consultation. Chris Steele, founder of myTribe, says that despite inflation and rising demand, the cost of private medical treatment hasn’t changed significantly in the last 12 months: “Most prices have increased by less than 10 percent. It is an encouraging sign that private hospitals are doing everything they can to maintain their prices.”
What about the insurance?
Insurance can make private health care more affordable, but there are exclusions and obstacles.
“You may not always be able to choose who you see,” says Dr. Patel. “Your insurance provider may insist that you see one of their doctors, at least initially.” Peter Lurie, owner and director of Hertfordshire-based broker Proactive Medical & Life, says he should consider several things before taking out private health insurance: your age, medical history, location, required benefits and what you can afford.
“Make sure, before you join any scheme, that they are taking your full medical history. The main difference between a business plan and a personal one is the cost; You will only be charged the tax element in your business plan as an employee, which is much lower than hiring a personal plan.
According to financial comparison website Unbiased, the average cost of private health insurance is around £1,500 a year. Lurie also points out that it’s hard to get coverage for pre-existing conditions: “Health insurance generally doesn’t cover chronic conditions, unless you already have coverage when you’re diagnosed. Once this happens, the insurer will cover acute flare-ups related to that condition, but will not cover daily maintenance of the condition, except for cancer. “If you have a long-term chronic illness and the NHS is treating it, the best advice is to continue that treatment under the NHS.”
Additional reporting by Cameron Henderson