Paying for private hospital treatment: what are the options?

10 Jan
2018

If you are a UK resident, you can likely utilise free healthcare from the National Health Service. However, there remain some scenarios in which it might be preferable to pay for private treatment. The Guardian reports year-on-year increases of up to 25% in the number of “self-payers” for healthcare – with treatment delays and rationing from the NHS to blame for this trend.

The figure also doesn’t take account of people who seek private healthcare that would be funded by their own private medical insurance. So, if the well-publicised struggles of the NHS have led you to consider opting for private healthcare as well, what would be the payment options?

Private medical insurance

This type of insurance can pay all – or some – of your bills for healthcare provided privately rather than by the publicly-funded organisation that is the NHS. However, not all private medical insurance policies are equal; different policies can cover different levels of care.

Typically, a basic policy would fund the expense of most in-patient tests and surgery, the Money Advice Service states. However, some more advanced policies can also pay for out-patient treatments like consultants and specialists.

Treatments that usually won’t be covered by private medical insurance include those for organ transplants, injuries caused by dangerous sports or war, and chronic illnesses like diabetes or epilepsy. Medical conditions that you had before taking out the policy would also usually be omitted from coverage. You might, nonetheless, find a policy covering mental health issues like depression.

You might already have private medical insurance – for example, through an employee benefits package provided by the organisation for which you work. In this case, you obviously wouldn’t need to take out and pay for a separate policy if your current one meets your preferences and needs.

Savings and loans

If you already have spare cash, you might be happy to occasionally dip into that fund to pay for private healthcare as and when you need it. However, this is not a financially palatable option for everyone, such as people whose income is largely only stretching to basic needs or who have debts; those should be paid before attention is shifted to private medical insurance.

Though The Guardian has reported instances of patients paying for private treatment with their savings, there have also been cases of people taking out loans. Whether you fund your private treatment with insurance, savings or loans, you should make sure that you choose a reputable provider of private healthcare.

Tips for finding a good provider of private hospital treatment

The Care Quality Commission regularly inspects healthcare providers before publicly handing them quality ratings. For example, the CQC gave the London-based Highgate Private Hospital a “Good” rating in a report published in May 2017.

Your provider of choice should also accept various payment methods; for example, Highgate Private Hospital welcomes self-funding patients as well as those with insurance from all of the leading UK providers of private medical insurance. A range of private hospital treatment services is available.