Avoid NHS waiting lists and be treated faster

Pre-Covid-19 waiting lists on the NHS for routine operations had been slowly improving over time, but an unfortunate side effect of the 2020 pandemic is that waiting lists for NHS operations have grown immeasurably, and the long term support demanded by many Covid-19 patients will likely only add to the pressure on the service.

Faster treatment and diagnosis

One of the biggest benefits of Private Health Insurance is the ability to bypass NHS waiting lists and be treated more quickly*. If you have comprehensive cover then you’ll benefit from not only being treated faster, but also from being diagnosed faster too. The best health insurance will cover almost everything following a GP referral.

*For all eligible conditions and treatments.

Have a private room while you’re in hospital

One of the biggest benefits of private medical insurance is access to private healthcare and hospitals in the UK. You’ll receive a private room where you can rest and recover, without any intrusions. Having a private room also means your visitors won’t disturb other patients when they come to see you. 

Private health insurance gives you the option to stay in a private hospital or access a private patient unit with an NHS trust. If you’d prefer, you can opt to stay in an NHS hospital, with some insurers providing you with payments or incentives to do this. 

Have more choice over who treats you

When you’re treated through the NHS you usually don’t have much of a choice over who provides your treatment. As a private health insurance client, you have the ability to request a particular specialist and/or consultant, and assuming they’re available, they will perform your treatment. 

Choose where and when you’re treated

Most of the time on the NHS, you don’t get an awful lot of choice when it comes to where and when you’re treated. You’ll usually be told the place and time of your treatment and probably the only option you'll have is to delay it. 

As a private medical insurance customer, you have the ability to choose which hospital you’d like to be treated at and when you’d like the treatment to take place. That means that a minor operation can be scheduled around your existing commitments, minimising the disruption it might cause to you. 

Access treatments and drugs not available on the NHS

Not all treatments and medicines are available on the NHS; this is usually because they’re too expensive or they’ve not yet been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). As a private health insurance customer, you could get access to some of these treatments if your specialist deems them to be appropriate. So you'll have more treatment options and potentially can access life-saving drugs and treatments not currently available on the NHS.

Private health insurance doesn’t guarantee access to specific drugs, but you will have a broader range of treatments available.

Access to virtual GP services

Many providers, even some the cheap private medical insurers, now provide a virtual GP service, where you can speak to a GP over the phone or via video call, often 24/7.

Mixing private healthcare with the NHS

The private healthcare system isn’t a replacement for the NHS, it’s a complementary service which you should use alongside the public health system. There are a number of reasons why that’s the case, but most significantly private health insurance won’t cover you for chronic conditions, meaning those that can’t be cured. For those conditions, while you may have been diagnosed privately, you will need to seek NHS treatment and management. Private hospitals also don’t provide accident and emergency services, so if you suddenly become unwell, you’d still need to visit your local A&E. Finally, while most health insurance providers give you the option to include children on the policy, the NHS gives priority to young people, so often the benefits of private cover aren’t as pronounced. 

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Disadvantages of health insurance

There are of course disadvantages to health insurance and we think it’s important to have a balanced view of the service and give you all of the facts. Here are what we consider the main disadvantages:

  • Private medical insurance can be expensive
  • The cost will usually increase each year as you age, which can make it unaffordable in later life
  • Not all conditions and treatments will be covered, such as chronic conditions
  • Emergency services aren’t included
  • You might get better care on the NHS. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean that the care is of a lower standard.

For a complete list of pros and cons, be sure to check out this useful article by the Money advice service or contact us for a quote and one of our helpful advisors will happily answer any questions you might have