Living in London gives you a thriving job market and all the arts and culture you could want. However, it comes at a price. If you're looking for health insurance, you could pay more simply because you're in London. Here's how you can get the most for your money.
The NHS is under pressure. According to the most recent statistics, 6.7 million people are waiting for non-urgent NHS treatment, with 62% of people not being seen within the Government's 18-week guideline.
Opting for private medical insurance could reduce your waiting time and give you fast access to the treatment you need.
Private health insurance can fund private treatment, but it's not the only option. You can still access private healthcare without insurance. To give you an idea of what it might cost, we've looked at the prices to see a private medical consultant and the typical cost of surgery in London.
Our recent research showed that the fee for a private consultation with a medical specialist ranges between £99 and £350 depending on their specialism. These fees are, on average, 27% higher in London than elsewhere in the UK.
The highest costs are for psychiatric treatment, with an initial consultation fee of £350. An appointment with a haematologist will cost £300 on average, while seeing a private physiotherapist will set you back just £99.
The majority of private specialist consultations cost between £150 and £250. Here's what you can expect to pay:
*based on five quotes from each type of consultant across London in August 2022.
If you've already seen your GP and had specialist consultations, you can request a referral letter to go private for your surgery. To better understand what you might expect to pay, we've looked at the average cost of some common procedures in London in August 2022.
Many factors will affect how much you'll pay for private surgery, including the complexity of the procedure and the fact that private hospitals in central London have higher overheads and wages than other areas of the UK.
Wherever you live, the fees for private surgery depend primarily on the type of operation you need.
On average, complex surgeries such as hip, knee or shoulder replacements cost between £12,900 to £13,300.
The average cost of an abdominal hysterectomy is £7,538. If you need to see an orthopaedic surgeon, you can expect to pay around £7,229 to have your ACL reconstructed, whilst a carpal tunnel release comes in at £1,849.
Lower-risk procedures such as a colonoscopy or tonsillectomy cost somewhere between £1,700 and £2,600.
These figures should only be treated as a guide, and the actual amount you pay could be lower or higher.
As you can see, the price for private treatment is potentially significant. There are a few different ways to pay.
Self-pay is the most straightforward option if you can pay the full amount for your appointment or surgery from your savings. You can pay in full or make an initial payment to confirm your treatment appointment and settle the balance later.
A medical loan is an excellent option if you cannot make a lump sum payment but can pay over a few months. Many healthcare providers have partnerships with finance companies that offer specialist medical loans with 0% interest for the first few months.
If you had a private medical insurance policy before you developed symptoms, it might cover the costs of your treatment unless it's excluded from your policy.
You can contact your insurers to make a claim, and they'll check whether your treatment is covered.
Private health insurance gives you quick access to private medical treatment when you need it. There are a few things to consider to ensure you get the right cover.
Health insurance pays for private healthcare for acute conditions that started after you took out the policy. Each private health insurance provider offers a range of services and treatments as part of its core cover, and you can also tailor your policy with optional extras.
Your policy cover will start as soon as you start paying your monthly premium. Then when you need private healthcare treatment, you simply contact your insurer to make a claim.
Private medical insurance policies offer a combination of core cover and optional extras. Here are a few treatments that are usually provided as standard, plus a few that are typically only available as an optional extra.
Every private health insurance plan covers you if you need to be admitted to a hospital or go to a day unit for treatment.
Cancer will affect 50% of us during our lifetime, which is why cancer cover is vital to every provider's private health insurance policies. You'll typically be covered for surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, while some insurers offer alternative treatments, nursing care and support services.
You can also add cover for services such as stem cell therapy or genetic testing.
A virtual GP appointment can give you advice on straightforward medical issues 24/7. Some can also issue a private prescription.
Every provider has a virtual GP service, either in the form of an app, telephone or online appointments.
Inpatient cover includes rehabilitation, but generally only if you need it after surgery.
It won't usually be covered if you need chiropractic treatment, osteopathy or physiotherapy.
Private health insurance can be tailored to your needs. Here are a few of the things that you could be offered.
Outpatient cover gives you access to private healthcare when you don't need to be admitted to a hospital. It can include rehabilitation, tests and consultant appointments.
One of the main advantages is getting a specialist diagnosis and starting treatment quickly. This can be crucial if you have a condition that benefits from early intervention.
Private medical insurance can give you access to treatments that aren't typically available on the NHS. However, if you want to have the option of alternative therapies such as homoeopathy or acupuncture, you'll need to add them as an optional extra.
Your health insurance policy may limit the number of treatment sessions covered, but you can opt to increase this if you think it's needed.
If you pay for private dental care and don't qualify for free treatment, you could save money by including it in your insurance. Dental cover usually includes routine checkups and treatment. Some policies also cover dental emergencies abroad.
Dental and optical cover usually go hand-in-hand. Optical cover can fund your regular checkups, glasses, and contact lenses if you need them for the first time or if your prescription has changed.
Many insurers offer mental health support, such as a 24-hour helpline or self-care information.
However, if you need specialist psychiatric treatment or inpatient care, you'll need to opt for additional coverage.
Each health insurer offers core cover and a package of optional extras, which can vary more widely than you might imagine. Before you choose your policy, check exactly what's included.
Health insurance lets you access private healthcare for acute conditions, which means some illnesses aren't covered. Some will be standard exclusions, while others are based on your medical history.
Here are the types of exclusions you can expect to come across.
A chronic condition is anything that needs ongoing care and management, so your NHS GP or consultant typically monitors them. It includes conditions such as:
Your private health insurance only covers treatment for symptoms that started after you started the policy, so pre-existing conditions are excluded. These are any illnesses you sought medical advice about five years before you took out the policy.
However, pre-existing conditions aren't necessarily excluded forever. Your insurer may add cover if your symptoms don't reoccur in the first two years of your policy.
Choosing the type of underwriting you have on your policy can help you to get a better deal on your private health insurance. The two main types are moratorium underwriting and full medical underwriting.
Both exclude any illnesses you had in the five years before you took out the policy for the first two years. If you don't have any further symptoms, you can add them.
Moratorium underwriting is the cheapest type of underwriting. Your insurers won't ask for details of your medical history when you first take out the policy, but it may take them longer to process your claim because they'll need to check your medical records to make a decision.
Full medical underwriting gives you more certainty about what's covered and excluded from the outset. You'll be asked to complete a medical history questionnaire so your insurer can confirm any exclusions from the start.
Full medical underwriting is often more expensive, but claims are generally dealt with more quickly.
Every insurer has a standard list of exclusions. These typically include:
This isn't an exhaustive list, so checking your chosen insurer's standard exclusions is essential. Some have minimal exclusions whilst others have a longer list which may include something vital to you.
Here are a few things to consider before you take out health insurance, including some that are particularly relevant if you live in London.
As we've already mentioned, most policies will only include inpatient and day patient care in their core cover, so your premiums will be higher if you want to add any optional extras.
Outpatient healthcare isn't typically included as standard, but adding it gives you the full benefits of private medical insurance. Outpatient cover gives you quick access to treatment. If you fall ill, you're much more likely to need diagnostic tests or an appointment with a physiotherapist than to be admitted to the hospital.
You have a choice of consultant wherever you're treated. Most leading insurers have a guided consultants list with pre-approved providers when you're treated privately. Choosing your specialist from this list can lower your premiums by 20%, but it does limit your options.
Alternatively, you can opt for unrestricted access, which costs more but gives you more choice. Some smaller insurance providers offer it as standard, but you'll need to pay more to get this from a larger insurer.
Every insurer has a hospital list, so you can choose where you're treated. Some insurers have a network of private hospitals, while others have agreements with private and NHS hospitals to offer you more choice.
Some providers also have a premium list of hospitals which typically includes the hospitals where treatment costs are higher, such as in central London.
If you want to be treated close to home in London, consider adding a premium hospital list to your policy.
Several different factors will influence the price of your health insurance in London. Here's our roundup.
Where you live will impact your premiums even within London. Most insurers quote based on your postcode. Therefore you could find yourself with a higher quotation than a friend elsewhere in the city.
The elements that make up your policy, including the level of cover, how many choices you want to have in where you're treated, and which specialist you see, combine to determine your premium.
It should be no surprise that health insurance costs more as you age, and you are more likely to experience ill health. Your premium is higher simply because you're more likely to make a claim.
We can't tell you precisely what you'll pay as the health insurance quotes you get will depend on your circumstances. However, we've spoken to eight leading insurance providers and asked them for quotes based on their comprehensive policies, including outpatient cover and some therapies but excluding mental health cover. We chose a standard hospital list and moratorium underwriting with a £250 excess.
Here's what we were quoted, on average, per month for someone living in London.
Whilst these costs should only be treated as a guide; they should give you an idea of the premium you could expect. To find out how London compares against the rest of the UK, read our full guide: Average cost of health insurance in the UK.
If you're worried that health insurance with the right level of coverage will be beyond your budget, we have good news. There are ways to reduce the cost of your health insurance but still get the cover you want.
Having outpatient cover is one of the best ways of experiencing the benefits of private medical insurance, but it can be expensive.
You could remove or reduce the cover limit to have an initial consultation and diagnostic tests but fewer private treatment sessions.
A health insurance excess works in the same way as an excess on your car insurance. Your excess figure is the amount you pay towards your treatment each time you make a claim. That could be as little as £10 or as much as £500 - the higher your excess, the lower your premium.
Health insurance can let you access treatment more quickly than on the NHS.
If you don't need immediate treatment, a 6-week wait option lets you have private treatment only if the waiting time for NHS treatment is more than 6 weeks.
Comparing quotes could save you money when your health insurance renewal arrives.
It's essential to check whether the quotes offer the same cover as your existing policy. While you can often switch providers and maintain your current terms and exclusions, that's not always the case.
Insurance providers can vary in the way they assess premiums. Freedom Health Insurance doesn't consider your postcode. Others offer community-rated schemes that don't examine individual claims to determine their renewal quotes.
Some insurers offer couples' policies or let you add your children for free. Some policies include family members from different households, which spreads the risk for your insurer and can lower your price.
We hope this guide has given you some food for thought about the type of health insurance you need.
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.
£109.63; however, you might pay more or less depending on your age.
All the top 8 are excellent, and which is best for you will be based on your requirements and circumstances.
Get a comparison quote from us, and we'll show you which provider comes out on top for you.
Yes, it does. Your postcode will affect the cost of your policy. However, one provider, Freedom, doesn't adjust pricing based on where you live.
This comprehensive guide gives those living in London all the information they need about finding and buying a private health insurance policy.
Save up to 37%* on your insurance by comparing policies
*Based on 461 quotes between 01/22-01/23