Best Private Health Insurance 2023

Find out how private health insurance works and who the best providers are according to both their customers and our private healthcare experts.

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1-minute read about accessing private healthcare

Private medical treatment services in the UK can be accessed by paying out of your own pocket (self-pay) or via private health insurance. 

Private health insurance is a good option for those looking to protect themselves from future medical conditions, but as a new policy usually won’t cover existing medical concerns, it won’t help if you’re stuck on a waiting list.

When looking at health insurance, take your time and make sure you understand what you’re buying, as decisions you make today could affect what your policy covers in years to come. 

Compare to save

You can often save £100s by comparing policies, and usually, it’s best to do this with the help of an experienced broker, who’ll help you understand the choices on offer. 

If you need medical treatment today, health insurance won’t cover the cost, and we recommend you head to this guide, where we explain more about self-paying for private consultations and surgery.

What is private health insurance?

Private health insurance is designed to pay for private medical treatment of future medical conditions. However, what is and isn’t covered by your policy is often dictated by how much you pay, your insurer and your medical history.

All health insurance policies, even the most basic, will cover the cost of having “acute” medical conditions treated in a private hospital where you are admitted for a day or more. Chronic conditions (like asthma and diabetes) are always excluded.

More comprehensive private health insurance policies usually include a level of outpatient cover, which gives you access to specialist consultations, tests and scans leading to a diagnosis. Without outpatient cover, you’d either need to receive your diagnosis via the NHS or self-pay for private consultations and tests.

This guide explains the details you need to know about private health insurance, including how it works, what to look out for, and who the best providers are.

Which private health insurance companies have the best customer reviews?

Customer service is a vital aspect of any service, but even more so with private health insurance. Unlike other types of insurance, where the chance of you claiming and needing to speak to your insurer is relatively low, there's a high probability you will claim on your health insurance at some point. Yes, you should also factor other things in when comparing health insurance providers, but customer reviews should be high on your list of considerations. Here is our regularly updated table of health insurers' customer reviews:

Which private health insurance company has the best customer reviews? Last updated 24th November 2023
Rank Health Insurance Company Customer Rating Review Count
1 WPA 4.7/5 2,472
2 National Friendly 4.6/5 180*
3 The Exeter 4.4/5 744*
4 Freedom 4.4/5 157
5 Saga 4.3/5 38,029*
6 Axa Health 4.2/5 8,945
7 Vitality 4.1/5 33,708*
8 Bupa 4.1/5 21,154
9 Aviva 4.0/5 30,969*
SOURCE: Trustpilot and Feefo 24/11/23

*This company collects reviews for numerous services, not just private medical insurance; this score and count is based on all their reviews. To better understand their performance for health insurance, visit their profile on TrustPilot and filter using the word "health".

Top 9 private health insurance companies UK 2023

Here are our top 9 private health insurance companies in the UK for 2023 based on our private healthcare experts' views and customer reviews:

1) WPA

Our Rating: 9.7/10

WPA is currently the best private health insurance provider in the UK, according to our panel of experts and thousands of independent customer reviews. WPA is a non-profit organisation, which means they do things differently than some of the others we've reviewed. As we'll explain, WPA's policies are excellent, but what really stands them out against other private healthcare companies in 2023 is their extremely high levels of customer satisfaction..

WPA - Complete Health

At the end of July 2023, WPA bid farewell to their 14-year-old Flexible Health policies and launched a new product called Complete Health.

Speaking with WPA, they tell us that Complete Health is designed to make it easier for people to create a policy around their specific requirements, and they're offering considerable flexibility to do that.

Perhaps the most significant change is that WPA now offers a choice between "Pooled Risk" or a traditional no-claims discount. From what we understand, Pooled Risk works similarly to a community rating, where the losses of the whole pool affect your renewal premiums, not your own claims. A no-claims discount is new for WPA, who have recognised that some prefer this option from their private healthcare.

WPA Complete Health offers core benefits such as inpatient and day-patient treatment in most private hospitals around the UK, £250 towards outpatient consultations, and cover for complex scans, such as MRI/CT/PET. You can also access their remote GP service and an NHS Hospital cash benefit.

Everything after that, including cancer cover, is optional, meaning you can tailor your policy around your personal requirements.

What we like
  • Good level of core cover, including complex scans and some outpatient cover
  • A choice between "pooled risk" or a no-claims discount
  • Optional cancer cover has no financial caps
  • Cash extras (Dental, Optical, Health Screening and Audiology) are split out, so that only customers who want those benefits pay for them
  • High levels of customer satisfaction
  • Unrestricted consultant access and an excellent hospital list
  • Extremely flexible policy; tailor it to your requirements
  • Excellent online app for claim registration and management
  • Non-profit so more can be invested into its policies and members
  • A choice between a Shared Responsibility Excess and a traditional excess.
What we don't like
  • The number of options makes it quite complicated and could mean it's harder to compare against other providers and policies.
Trustpilot Reviews

WPA has one of the highest ratings of any private healthcare providers in the UK market we've reviewed, scoring an impressive 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot from 2,437 reviews as of 24th November 2023.

More information

If you'd like to know more about WPA Complete Health, please click here to read our full, detailed review.

2) The Exeter

Our Rating: 9.6/10

The Exeter is second on our list of the top health insurance companies in 2023. With high levels of customer satisfaction, an incredibly flexible private health insurance product, and an attractive price point, they are well worth your consideration. As The Exeter has "mutual" status and they don't have shareholders, they are free to invest profits back into the business and to the benefit of members.

The Exeter Health+

The Exeter Health+ is among the top private medical insurance policies we've reviewed and is undoubtedly worth your consideration if you're looking for a policy. Their private healthcare policies and the company stand out from both a comprehensiveness and customer service perspective.

The Exeter is one of the fairest in how claims affect your no-claims discount. Whereas with other insurers, claims even as little as a few hundred pounds will see you fall back by three discount levels, with The Exeter, you'd need to claim over £2,001 for that to happen.

Earlier in 2023, The Exeter launched their new "Guided" option, which has seen them become one of the most competitive on price. Their client reviews speak for themselves; we only hear good things when we talk to brokers.

What we like
  • Excellent core product
  • Numerous options to tailor your healthcare plan
  • Outpatient surgery included in the base product
  • Extensive cancer cover
  • Options to add extra cover such as physical therapies and more
  • High levels of customer satisfaction
  • Fair approach to claims and no claims discounts
  • Various member discounts and rewards
  • One of the best for paying claims
  • Discounts for families and couples
What we don't like
  • No option to include dental cover or travel insurance
Trustpilot Reviews

The Exeter collects its health insurance review feedback via Trustpilot; as of November 2023, it has an impressive score of 4.4 out of 5 from 744 reviews as of 24th November 2023.

While they have yet to get as many independent reviews as other health insurance providers detailed here, the score is on par or, if not better, than most we've reviewed.

More information

If you'd like to know more about The Exeter Health+ please contact us or visit their website.

3) Bupa

Our Rating: 9.5/10

Bupa is synonymous with private health insurance in the UK. Far from just providing medical insurance, they deliver care.

Bupa By You Comprehensive

Bupa offers two types of private health insurance, Treatment and Care, their low-cost product and Comprehensive. This post is dedicated to the best private health insurance, so we will concentrate on their flagship policy.

Bupa is one of the few health insurance companies we've reviewed that will allow you to get direct support for cancer without needing to see a GP first. With Bupa Direct Access, one of Bupa's advisers will discuss your symptoms with you and, if required, refer you directly to a specialist.

Bupa also doesn't have an age restriction for new customers, with others not accepting applicants after their 65th or 70th birthdays. Finally, therapies and mental health coverage are included as standard, albeit only up to your outpatient limits.

What we like
  • Excellent inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment cover as standard
  • Comprehensive cover for acute illnesses (excludes any pre-existing condition)
  • Direct referral to cancer specialists via Bupa Direct Access
  • Includes outpatient consultations, scans and tests (annual limits apply)
  • Customers of any age welcome
  • 24/7 access to their Digital GP via Babylon
  • Outpatient physiotherapy and other therapies (annual limits apply)
  • Choice of three hospital lists (Essential, Extended & Extended with Central London)
  • 10% discount for families
What we don't like
  • No option to protect your no claims discount
  • You are restricted to Bupa recognised consultants and private hospitals
  • Cancer treatment is only paid in full when you use a Bupa recognised facility
Trustpilot Reviews

Bupa has collected some 21,154 reviews (24th November 2023) on Trustpilot and has a 4.1 out of 5 stars rating. While impressive and very good, that score isn't quite as high as other insurance providers we feature, which indicates a slightly lower level of satisfaction among its customers.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Bupa health insurance, please visit their website, or click here to read our detailed review.

4) Aviva

Our Rating: 9.5/10

It may come as a surprise that Aviva is the largest insurance company in the UK, with approximately 18 million customers!

Aviva Healthier Solutions

Aviva's leading private health insurance product is “Healthier Solutions”, and it's what we would describe as a comprehensive policy. It gives you access to a network of hundreds of hospitals and health clinics across the UK as both an inpatient and outpatient.

Several things stand out about Aviva's health insurance compared to some of the companies we've reviewed. Firstly, Aviva offers a "protectable" no claims discount to minimise the effect of claims against your renewal cost.

What we like
  • Extensive cancer treatment cover as standard
  • Excellent cover for acute medical conditions
  • Access to hundreds of private medical facilities (choose between Expert Select or a hospital list)
  • Around the clock access to a Digital GP
  • 24-hour stress counselling helpline
  • Discount for couples taking out policies
  • Add two or more children (under 19), and the youngest goes free
What we don't like
  • Although general dental cover is available, a limit of £250 with a £50 excess can be considered low compared to other alternatives.
Trustpilot Reviews

Aviva has collected over 30,900 independent reviews on Trustpilot and has a 4.0 out of 5 stars, rated “Great”. We should point out that these reviews aren't specifically for their private healthcare.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Aviva Healthier Solutions, please click here to read our detailed review.

5) Axa Health

Our Rating: 9.3/10

Axa Heath is one of the big four health insurance providers in the UK, incorporating several well-known brands such as Health-on-line and Axa PPP Healthcare under one roof to deliver first-class service to close to a million people in the UK.

Axa Personal Health

Firstly, while Axa's core health insurance policy doesn't include certain things, such as outpatient cover, it can be added to your policy for an additional fee. Some may see this as an advantage, as ultimately, it gives you more control over what's included. With Axa's core product, you get access to inpatient treatment and day-patient private treatment at over 250 hospitals across the UK, alongside various additional benefits. Needless to say, they've stacked up well in our health insurance review.

What we like
  • Excellent cancer and heart cover
  • Cover for diagnostic surgery, CT, MRI and PET scans
  • Cover for radiotherapy and chemotherapy
  • Generous Standard outpatient cover
  • Comprehensive cover for acute illnesses (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Fast Track Appointments for diagnostics (with outpatient cover)
  • Choice of over 250 private hospitals
  • Market-leading no claims discount scheme
  • Speech therapy for children under 14 (6 sessions)
  • 24/7 private healthcare with their Health at Hand service
  • Telephone support from a dedicated nurse helpline
What we don't like
  • Outpatient cover not included (optional extra)
  • Headline prices are typically for guided consultants, meaning you won't get as much choice over who treats you. However, you can opt for non-guided for a higher monthly premium.
Axa's Trustpilot Reviews

Axa Health has collected 8,945 reviews as of 24th November 2023 on Trustpilot with a score of 4.2 out of 5.0.

If you'd like to know more about Axa Personal Health, please get in touch or click here to read our detailed product review.

6) Freedom Health Insurance

Our Rating: 9.2/10

Freedom Health Insurance is one of the new guards of top health insurance providers, founded in 2003 in Poole (not far from us, actually).

Freedom Elite Health Insurance

Freedom market their Elite Health insurance as flexible private health insurance tailored to your requirements and budget. Their core cover is comprehensive, giving you an excellent foundation to go on and build your healthcare plan.

Perhaps the most significant difference between Freedom's private health insurance and the others we've reviewed is that they offer a renewal price guarantee to all new customers. Whether you make a claim or not, your premium will not rise in the first two years. Finally, they are the sole health insurance company in the UK that doesn't set your monthly premiums based on your postcode; this is especially useful for families living in traditionally expensive areas such as London.

What we like
  • 2-year guaranteed premium, no increase in the first two years
  • A flexible policy that can be tailored to your budget and needs
  • Comprehensive cover for private medical care where a hospital stay is required (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Prices not based on your postcode
  • Community rated scheme - your claims won't usually affect your premiums
  • Access to nearly all private hospitals and consultants in the UK (bar HCA hospitals which can be included for an additional fee)
  • Excellent cancer cover (diagnosis only included with optional outpatient cover)
  • Options to add alternative therapies, dental and optical cover
  • Option to include outpatient tests, scans and consultations(annual limits apply)
  • Cover for pregnancy complications
  • Cover for MRI, CT and PET scans
What we don't like
  • No option to add travel cover
Feefo Reviews

Freedom Health Insurance currently has a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars via the reviews platform Feefo. Reviews in the past year cite that Freedom's team is "extremely helpful," "so efficient," and "very quick to respond". However, it has to be said that the number of reviews they've collected (157) is far less than others in the market, primarily as they only sell health insurance and therefore have a smaller client base.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Freedom Elite Health Insurance, please visit their website or click here to read our detailed product review.

7) Vitality

Our Rating: 9.1/10

Vitality (formerly Pruhealth) is one of the big four health insurance companies in the UK, albeit with a smaller (but growing) market share. They pride themselves on promoting healthier living among their members with numerous rewards for staying fit and healthy.

Vitality Personal Healthcare

It's easy to see why people are switching to Vitality with a very competitive price point and a five-star Defaqto rating. Vitality changed the market for the better when they entered it, and today, they still lead the way in innovation.

What sets Vitality apart is its commitment to providing cover when you need it, encouraging healthy living, and rewarding you for keeping in shape and looking after yourself.

Unique to Vitality is a 10% discount for all new customers if you haven't required any hospital treatment or specialist advice in the three years before your plan starts. This discount is brilliant for people that come to Vitality with a clean bill of health, and as we say, no other company offers this.

What we like
  • Full Cover Promise - if you're admitted to hospital, they promise to pay all of your hospital fees, consultant and anaesthetist fees in full (which isn't the case with all providers)
  • Cover for acute illnesses (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Online doctor appointments and 24/7 access to a medical helpline
  • Extensive discount and rewards programme to offset the cost of your policy
  • Mental health support included (doesn't include full psychiatric cover - available as an additional extra)
  • Excellent cancer treatment cover
  • Menopause support service
  • 10% discount for new customers without any recent medical issues (3 years)
  • Renewals linked to your health status
What we don't like
  • Renewal premiums are linked to health status and claims. If you can't evidence activity, prices can rise more sharply.
Trustpilot Reviews

Vitality collects feedback via Trustpilot, where it has over 33,708 customer reviews at the time of writing, with a score of 4.1 out of 5 stars.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Vitality Health Insurance, please click here to read our detailed product review or get in touch for a comparison quote.

8) Saga

Our Rating: 9.1/10

Saga specialises in offering services to the over 50s, from holidays and cruises to car, home and health insurance. Axa PPP Healthcare Limited underwrites Saga's health insurance policies, and when we spoke with Saga in October 2023, they told us that Axa handles anything claim-related.

Saga Healthplan Super Series

Saga's flagship private medical insurance policies are their "Super" series. "Super" is their most comprehensive, with "Super 4 Week Wait" and "Super 6 Week Wait" offering the same benefits, but only if the NHS waiting time for the treatment you need is more than four or six weeks. 

What we like:
  • Unlimited telephone or video GP appointments
  • 28 days of mental health inpatient treatment and £2,500 as an outpatient
  • Unlimited outpatient consultations, outpatient treatment, diagnostic tests and physiotherapy
  • Unlimited complex scans, i.e. CT, MRI and PET
  • Extensive cancer cover, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and eligible outpatient cancer treatments
  • £2000 of therapist and acupuncturist charges
  • Option to protect no claims discount
What we don't like:
  • Claims of any size (after you've paid your excess) move you two steps down their no-claims bonus discount levels.

Saga reviews

Ok, this is where it gets a little more complicated, as Axa PPP Healthcare is responsible for claims handling, which is the most critical aspect of health insurance; it's unlikely you'll speak to or hear from Saga much outside of renewal time. So, do we look at Axa's reviews, Saga's or both?

We'll go with the latter and look at both, but also factor into your decision-making that Saga offers many different products that aren't related to insurance. To find health insurance-specific reviews, add a filter to Trustpilot with the word "Health", and you should be presented with a more focused view.

Saga currently has a rating of 4.4 on Trustpilot from over 38,000 reviews, and Axa has around 8,945 with a Trustpilot score of 4.2 as of November 2023.

A final note on Saga

There may well be a change to who underwrites Saga's health insurance policies soon. As we know more and it becomes public knowledge, we'll share it here.

9) National Friendly

Our Rating: 8.8/10

National Friendly are perhaps one of the lesser-known UK private health insurance companies we've selected to review.

National Friendly My PMI

National Friendly's private health insurance plan is called Optimum. They promise a fair and friendly approach to medical insurance; on the whole, we agree that they deliver on that promise. Their straightforward policy information details what's covered and what's not, and they go further than any other to keep your premiums at a manageable level.

One of the biggest draws of a National Friendly UK health insurance is that any claims you make won't affect your renewal premiums in the first five years. The only increases you can expect will be due to your age and medical inflation, not your personal claims history. National Friendly also stack up well when it comes to their hospital list. They offer one of the most comprehensive lists on the market, with very few exclusions.

What we like
  • Claims will not impact renewal premiums until your 5-year review
  • Four levels of cover, giving plenty of flexibility
  • Almost no increase in price to have zero excess
  • Extremely comprehensive hospital list
  • No add-on fees for switching from another provider
  • No “no claims bonus” to make pricing more straightforward
What we don't like
  • MRI, CT and PET scans come out of your outpatient limit
  • Not all levels cover stem cell therapy and bone marrow transplants
  • Not all health plans included mental health cover
  • No unlimited outpatient option
Trustpilot Reviews

National Friendly, like many of the other health insurance companies, collect independent reviews via Trustpilot and currently enjoys an outstanding score of 4.6 out of 5 stars, one of the highest of any provider we've reviewed. However, that is only from 180 reviews, making them perhaps less representative of their service than other providers with thousands.

How do we review which private healthcare policies get the best rating?

myTribe's ratings for UK health insurance policies are calculated based on a specific list of policy features alongside other factors, such as customer service levels and reviews, clarity of information, attitude to claims and more. Here is a list of some of the key elements we consider:

  • Maximum total cover (per year)
  • Cancer cover levels
  • How claims affect discounts and premiums
  • Consultant/specialist choice and limitations
  • Hospital lists
  • Customer reviews - volume and overall score
  • Helplines and support
  • Virtual GP services
  • Physiotherapy cover
  • Psychiatric treatment
  • CT, MRI, and PET Scans
  • Defaqto rating
  • Dental and optical cover
  • Travel cover
  • Exclusions
  • And many more

Watch: How to choose the best policy

If you have had your fill of reading but still want to know more about how health insurance works, please watch our video titled "How to choose the best private health insurance". In the video, we explain things you need to be aware of and what we'd suggest is the best way to find and buy a health insurance policy.

What to look out for when choosing medical insurance

In this part of our guide we cover some of the core questions people have and explain some of the subtleties you should look out for when comparing private healthcare providers. 

Benefits of private health insurance

Generally speaking, you can expect all of the following benefits from a health insurance policy:

  • Be treated sooner in a private healthcare setting, bypassing NHS waiting lists
  • Access to private consultants and specialists
  • A private room if you're admitted to hospital
  • More choice over who provides your treatment
  • Various rewards, discounts and member incentives

What does private health insurance cover?

Private health insurance covers the costs associated with treating acute medical conditions, meaning those which, generally speaking, are curable. Chronic diseases are excluded, as are pre-existing conditions you've suffered from in the past five years. While there are many benefits of health insurance, there are limitations too, and it's not designed to replace the NHS but work alongside it.

Basic policies vs comprehensive policies

Even the most basic policies will cover the cost of being treated in a private hospital where you require a bed for a day or overnight. However, you'll need to be diagnosed via the NHS first before receiving your treatment privately with entry-level policies. 

Comprehensive policies typically include outpatient cover, often limited to a monetary value per year. With these policies, all you need is a referral from your GP, and then everything from then onwards will take privately.

All providers and their policies will be different, so take your time when choosing the right one for you. We recommend that you always speak to a qualified broker before deciding as they understand all of the policies and can provide you with individual advice.

If you're looking for a lower cost policy, read our recently updated guide to cheap health insurance in the UK.

Optional extras

While comprehensive policies will cover numerous private healthcare treatment and diagnosis options, you can also look to enhance your cover with a range of extras; typically including:

  • Therapies Cover - such as physiotherapy (although many will include post-op physiotherapy sessions in their core product)
  • Mental Health Cover - many policies include access to helplines, but you'll usually pay more for access to more extensive treatment options.
  • Dental and Optical Cover - you can get help towards the cost of routine appointments and check-ups.
  • Travel Insurance - if you want your private health insurance to extend beyond the UK.
  • Unrestricted consultant choice - some providers, such as WPA, National Friendly and Freedom, don't have too many limits on who can treat you, but others do. 
  • Access to more hospitals - all medical insurance providers operate their own hospital lists, and if you want to extend those, you can pay to do so.

What's excluded?

All private healthcare insurance companies will have some exclusions, and it's always best to refer to your policy documentation to see what yours excludes. However, generally speaking, you can expect the following to be excluded on most policies:

  • Monitoring of and treatment of long-term (chronic) conditions
  • Emergency treatment
  • Cosmetic treatment
  • Self-harm, alcohol abuse and drug abuse
  • Childbirth, birth control and infertility
  • Treatment that takes place outside the UK

Please note: There are some circumstances where specific exclusions may be covered. For example, some insurers may contribute or cover the cost of cosmetic surgery, which is required due to an operation. If you have questions, please speak to your broker or the insurer or review their policy documentation. 

The average cost of private healthcare

In January 2023, we obtained over 1000 quotes from the top health insurance companies for fictional people of varying ages living in different locations across the UK. The following table shows the research results, with the average cost for a comprehensive policy with the six top health insurers in the UK.

How much does a good health insurance policy cost?
Age Average Monthly Premium *
20-years-old £35.19
30-years-old £47.48
40-years-old £57.67
50-years-old £74.45*
60-years-old £110.69
70-years-old £179.21

*These are illustrative quotes obtained from the insurers' websites in January 2023. We opted for a policy which we deemed comprehensive, with inpatient and outpatient cover. It had a minimum of £1000 outpatient cover, a £250 excess (or as close as possible), and cover for alternative therapies. Mental health, routine dental and optical and travel cover were all excluded. The price you pay will differ based on numerous factors.

What to look out for when comparing private medical insurance providers

All health insurers tend to push similar information about their policies, often focusing on things such as cancer cover, mental health cover and outpatient limits. But there are some lesser-known differences which you should pay close attention to, as they will affect you should you make a claim. Here's a quick round-up of some of those subtleties.

1. Whether your claims affect your renewal premiums

Approximately half of the best private health insurance providers we've reviewed will increase your premiums at renewal if you make a claim, but that isn't always the case. Most common among the smaller providers is a "community-rated" approach to claims, meaning that it's the claims of all of their members that affect your renewal premium, not yours. Of course, this can be seen as a benefit and a disadvantage, but bearing in mind many of the insurers offering this are owned by their members, not shareholders, you'd like to think they do it for positive reasons. 

The most significant outlier to either of these approaches is National Friendly, which won't factor your or other members' claims into your renewal premiums for the first five years. That's not to say your premiums won't increase as you age and the cost of private treatment goes up; it's just claims won't have an impact in the short term.

2. Your postcode

With most health insurers, where you live in the UK plays a significant role in the cost of your policy. You can expect to pay more if you live in a big city, with likely more expensive hospitals. Equally, if you happen to live in an area that has a high-claim rate, that can increase the cost of your policy too. However, some providers don't adjust prices that much based on your postcode (National Friendly), and there's even one that doesn't change them at all (Freedom). So, if you happen to live in a big city, such as London, where the cost of being treated privately is inherently more, one of these providers might be a good fit, assuming everything else fits your requirements.

3. Hospital lists

If you've had private health insurance for several years, you'll be familiar with the restrictions on your policy relating to the hospitals you can choose from should you need treatment. However, it's easily overlooked for anyone new to health insurance, and we think it's something you should bear in mind. Some health insurers such as WPA, Freedom and National Friendly give you access to pretty much any private hospital in the UK, bar some very expensive ones in central London. While you can pay extra to expand your hospital list with the other insurers, if you don't know you're restricted and that not all providers restrict as much as others, you could run the risk of only learning this key difference when you make a claim.

4. Access to consultants and specialists

Another thing to be mindful of is whether your chosen policy has any restrictions in respect to who can treat you. The biggest health insurers, Aviva, Bupa, Axa and Vitality, all operate what's known as "Guided Consultant lists", which effectively means you will be limited to a pool of consultants and specialists. There are two potential downsides to "guided consultants". Firstly, if there is a specific consultant you want to treat you, perhaps based on their reputation in the field, they may not be included in your insurers "pool". Secondly, as you're effectively reducing the number of consultants and specialists you can access, you run the risk of having slightly longer waiting times for treatment than if you had access to any consultant in the UK. Several smaller providers don't restrict your consultant choice, namely WPA, National Friendly, and Freedom.

We should point out that all of the providers offer the option to remove "guided consultants", which will increase the cost of your policy. There is a flips ide, of course, which we are sure insurers will argue; opting for guided consultants usually reduces the cost of your policy.

5. What insurers will pay for treatments

Next is what each provider is willing to pay for specific treatments, with all of them having an extensive list of procedures with associated maximums. While a critical benefit of health insurance is that it covers the cost of being treated privately, it's perhaps less known that you aren't always covered in full! It's usually only at the point of claim that you'll come to learn about "maximum procedure fees", but we'd recommend that it's something you research and speak to your broker about before you take out a policy.

Is health insurance worth it?

Health insurance gives you access to private healthcare treatment options should become unwell, but is it actually worth it and do you need it? Strictly speaking, none of us needs private health insurance, as we have the NHS in the UK, and they do an amazing job with the resources available to them. However, at the time of writing, the NHS continues to suffer from record-breaking waiting lists, not just for non-urgent operations but for cancer care too.

Cancer care waiting times are the longest on record

As highlighted in a recent article from The Guardian, NHS waiting times for cancer care in England are now the longest on record, alongside countless other types of urgent care. That’s worrying of course, and for many, is the primary reason they take out private medical insurance. By taking out a policy, even a relatively basic one, you give you and your family a head start should the worse happen and one of your fall ill. Take out a comprehensive policy and everything after an initial GP referral will take place privately, and waiting times are significantly less in the private sector. 

So, to answer the original question, yes, health insurance is worth it and it’s becoming increasingly valuable while the NHS tries to overcome the current backlog.

Compare health insurance with myTribe

We hope that you’ve found this guide useful and informative. Please bear in mind that everything we’ve detailed is meant to inform and none of our information should be taken as advice. We always recommend that you speak to an independent health insurance broker before deciding on a policy as they can help you configure your policy, provide answer any questions you might have and get you the best deal. To compare health insurance quotes, please click the button below.

"I recently got a family health insurance policy through myTribe and the service was excellent from start to finish. The adviser that I spoke to was very patient and took time to explain all of the intricacies to me so that I felt confident and informed when making a decision. The fact that they compare the market for you makes the process really quick and easy and I think I came away with not only the best policy for me but a much better understanding of how private health insurance works."

by Chris Stratton - 12th May 2022
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Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

Chris Steele
Cert CII (F1, IF7 & I10)
Founder and Editor

Chris is our resident healthcare expert and has over a decade's experience writing for and about private medical insurance and private treatment. He's a Cert CII qualified member of The Chartered Insurance Institute and his research and work are often cited in the press. Chris is also contributing writer to numerous other financial services publications.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost of private health insurance in the UK?

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Based on over 1000 quotes obtained in January, we can share the current cost of private health insurance for a typical comprehensive policy:

  • 20-years-old = £35.19 per month
  • 30-years-old = £47.48 per month
  • 40-years-old = £57.67 per month
  • 50-years-old = £74.45 per month
  • 60-years-old = £110.69 per month
  • 70-years-old = £179.21 per month

*Average based on quotes from eight leading health insurers in 10 UK cities. We opted for a comprehensive policy, with a £250 excess (or as close as possible), outpatient cover limited to a maximum of £1,500 in claims per year, and we included therapies cover. We defaulted to each provider's standard hospital list and used moratorium underwriting. Mental health cover, dental, optical and travel cover were all excluded. Prices are accurate as of January 2023. Please note these prices are purely illustrative; the cost of your policy will be different.

Is Axa the same as Bupa?

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Axa and Bupa are two different private medical insurers in the UK, and while they provide similar services, they're not the same.

Is it worth having private medical insurance in the UK?

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Private medical insurance is becoming increasingly valuable due to the NHS's record-breaking waiting lists. Having private health insurance ensures that you can receive fast treatment and bypass the NHS backlogs.

How can I buy health insurance?

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There are a couple of ways you can buy health insurance in the UK. Firstly, you could research all of the providers and policies and then contact them directly for quotes. The second way, which we and many others do, is to speak to a health insurance broker who can perform a market review for you and help you select the best policy for the best price. Brokers are paid by the insurers, so the service they provide to you is free, and you’ll get the same price going through one as you would going direct.

What is an acute medical condition?

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Each insurer defines an acute condition slightly differently. Still, the general definition is an illness that is curable through medical intervention. Acute conditions can include injuries, but only those that are likely to respond quickly to treatment. As a reminder, most acute conditions will be covered by private health insurance policies.

Who is the No 1 Health Insurance Company In the UK?

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WPA are our experts' top health insurance company for 2023, with excellent policies and outstanding customer service.

What is a chronic medical condition?

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A chronic condition is defined as one that isn't curable and will probably require monitoring and management instead of medical treatment. Two examples are diabetes and asthma, both of which would be excluded from a health insurance policy. For a complete list of exclusions, or if you have any concerns, be sure to ask your adviser what is and isn't covered before taking out your policy.

Who are the primary providers of private medical services in the UK?

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There are a number of excellent private hospitals groups in the UK, which of those you can access under your health insurance will vary, however. In short, these are the main providers:

  • Nuffield Health - One of the best known Private Healthcare providers in the UK, Nuffield Health is a not-for-profit charity, which invests its income back into improving the nation's health. They currently have 31 hospitals and over 100 fitness and wellbeing clubs across the UK. They work with the NHS, private medical insurers, employers and the public to provide private health and wellbeing services.
  • Spire Healthcare - Spire Healthcare has 39 private hospitals across the UK and provides a large range of treatments, from cancer and cardiac care, through to diagnostic scans, tests and investigations. An award-winning provider, Spire Healthcare are committed to providing high-quality care to the UK.
  • BMI Healthcare - BMI Healthcare started in 1970 and today has 54 private hospitals and clinics throughout the UK. Offering over 500 different medical treatments, they have centres of excellence for cancer, spinal, orthopaedic, neuro and cardiac care. 
  • HCA - HCA operates six world-class private hospitals across London and the Christie Private Care Hospital in Manchester. Due to location and their first-class facilities, healthcare at these hospitals tend to cost more than with some of the other providers mentioned and often isn’t covered by health insurers’ standard hospital lists.
  • Ramsay Healthcare - Ramsay Healthcare has a network of 33 private hospitals in England and Wales, which provide a comprehensive range of clinical services to over 200,000 people per annum and employ over 5,000 people.

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