As a public health system, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is a lifeline for many people, offering affordable and sometimes free care that patients often desperately need. But this also means that patients face a long wait for specialist care or procedures. The maximum waiting time to see a consultant in the UK is said to be 18 weeks for non-urgent cases, but the reality is that many have to wait much longer — often 12 months or more.
The Covid pandemic has only worsened the situation, with the NHS facing a large backlog of cases that could take years to clear. Patients are becoming more conscious of their health and unwilling to wait for consultations and operations that could dramatically improve their quality of life or give them crucial peace of mind. Many are finding a solution in private healthcare.
How Many People Are Choosing Private Healthcare?
The exact numbers are unknown, but one private hospital group has reported double the number of patients through its doors in recent months. And with Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning that waiting lists are likely to rise because of a huge increase in demand, it’s no surprise that people are looking to go private.
How Much Does It Cost?
In a cash-strapped economy, cost is a more important consideration than ever. Fees for private healthcare can vary wildly depending on location and the treatment sought. For example, a total knee replacement performed by an experienced knee consultant will be more expensive than a diagnostic arthroscopy, regardless of which hospital you go to.
That said, private hospitals benefit from having larger budgets, meaning patients enjoy care from highly paid professionals who are the best in their field, along with the newest and most effective medication and latest medical equipment and technology.
For many, it’s a question of whether they can afford not to prioritise their health.
Other Benefits of Going Private
Immediate Medical Treatment
One of the primary reasons people choose private healthcare is the reduced waiting time. Some hospitals offer next, or even same-day appointments and follow-up consultations or procedures can be booked very soon after — sometimes in days. Compare that to the public healthcare system, where people may struggle to get even a telephone appointment for weeks, let alone a referral. For patients, the advantages of going private are faster recovery times and getting back to normality more quickly.
It’s no secret that doctors and nurses at public hospitals are rushed off their feet with high volumes of people needing treatment. This gives them only a brief time to see their patients, who likely end up with more questions than there is time to answer them. A big advantage of going private is that doctors have fewer patients, meaning they can spend more one-on-one time talking them through their treatment plan or operation, easing their concerns and answering their questions in detail.
Patients are also often treated by the same consultant during their treatment, allowing them to build rapport with a professional they trust and who deeply understands their situation.
While saving time and receiving personalised care are major draws of private healthcare, they’re not the only deciding factors.
Hospitals can be a scary place — the overly clinical surroundings and cramped wards can set patients on edge. In comparison, being treated in a private hospital can actually be an enjoyable experience. It’s more akin to a hotel stay, with patients treated to their own room complete with TV, internet and comfy bedding, where they can see their family in private. Rest and diet are vital components of a successful recovery, and at a private hospital, patients can enjoy tasty meals and a relaxing night’s sleep instead of stressing their body as it tries to heal.
As the pandemic continues and NHS waiting lists grow longer every day, it seems that the trend of private hospitals seeing increased demand will continue to rise, and it’s not difficult to see why.