What is private healthcare in the UK?

Private health care in the UK offers customers access to an extensive range of private medical treatments and facilities to the cost of the patient. Unlike the NHS, private healthcare treatment isn’t paid by the UK government, but it offers numerous associated benefits.
April 17, 2019
minutes read time

Ask your GP about private medical care

The NHS is committed to the Patient Choice Programme which outlines how they’re improving the information patients have when making medical choices. The programme details exactly when in the diagnosis and treatment process a patient should be given the information that helps them make an informed decision.

But how does this affect private healthcare? In short, patients will be more aware of the options available to them, which includes private healthcare. The NHS is encouraging patients to ask questions and make choices for themselves, so don’t be afraid to ask your GP about private treatment options if you’d like more information. Receiving private medical care does not impact your access to NHS services at any time.

Alternatively, many private healthcare providers publish regular documents that detail their treatments, hospitals and benefits. You can use this information to judge yourself whether you think private treatment is the best option for you.

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UK private hospitals

Quite simply, the private healthcare industry wouldn’t exist without the facilities to treat its patients, and there are many private hospitals in the UK you can choose from.

All private hospitals in the UK are regulated by an independent regulator, the Care Quality Commission. They regularly release reports about hospital standards, and you can check the quality of care of a private hospital to see whether you’d be happy receiving treatment there.

UK private hospital providers

When it comes to UK private hospital providers, there is a broad range of facilities, specialisms, staff, locations and companies operating them. This means that as a private healthcare patient, you have a lot of choices. The best private hospital for you depends entirely on your personal circumstances, and we’d be happy to talk through with you what your best options are.

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Each hospital is unique; some may cover you for intensive care, others may specialise in eye treatments, and another may only accept women and children as patients. With that in mind, the best hospital for you depends on the treatment you need, as well as factors such as where they are in relation to you, and the specialist staff available. Here’s a background on some of the major private hospital groups in the UK:

  1. HCA: They operate 6 hospitals across London and the Christie Private Care Hospital in Manchester, offering level 2 and level 3 adult intensive care units. These hospitals are very well equipped for a wide range of health issues and paediatric care. Due to their location and specialist facilities, you may pay more for your private treatment at HCA hospitals.
  2. Nuffield Health: Renowned for their physiotherapists, fitness and wellbeing centres, Nuffield Health are a not for profit company and operate across the UK.
  3. Spire Healthcare: They have 39 hospitals throughout the UK, operating a wide range of treatments such as Orthopaedic, Cardiac, Psychotherapist, Fertility, Cosmetic and specialist Cancer care.
  4. BMI Healthcare: You’ll find high-level facilities geared towards patient comfort at their 58 private hospitals across the UK. They provide a comprehensive list of treatments and handle over 250,000 inpatient and 1,750,000 outpatients each year.
  5. Ramsay Health: They handle over 200,000 admissions across their 33 private hospitals, with a particular focus on weight loss surgery, orthopaedics and neurological services.
  6. Circle Health: They offer a full range of NHS District General Hospital Services in partnership with the NHS. Circle Health provides treatments for a wide range of health issues from General surgery, rehabilitation, general medicine and much more.

There are more private hospital providers than this, and all of the above provide treatments for varying health issues, with some being broad, and others very specific. We encourage you to check them out individually if you’d like an extensive list of their services.

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Private hospitals and health insurance

If you’ve read our blog ‘What is health insurance?’, you’ll know that private healthcare plays a pivotal role in health insurance. After all, private health insurance relies on up-to-date, modern private hospitals to provide the treatments outlined in every policy.

Every health insurance provider has a unique hospital directory, which is essentially a list of hospitals that you can receive treatment from as outlined in your health insurance policy. Although this list is exclusive to the provider, most standard policies will allow you access to the largest hospital chains such as BMI, Nuffield, Spire, Ramsay and Circle Health. This isn’t always the case, so be sure to confirm this with your policy provider or check with us.

For access to more extensive hospital directories, such as those based in Central London and often HCA hospitals, your insurer may allow you to receive treatment from them for an additional policy premium. You should also bear in mind that throughout the year, insurers may update their hospital directory to remove or add access to hospitals. However, this depends entirely on your provider and your policy options, so we recommend that you research the hospitals you’d like access to before approaching a policy provider.

If you’re in doubt or would like a helping hand, we’d be happy to work with you and advise on the hospitals that you’d benefit from accessing for your needs

"The hospitals we recommend to our customers are based on their requirements and location"

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Accessing private healthcare through insurance providers

Private healthcare is available through a wide range of private hospitals in the UK, and even the NHS have private treatment areas within some of their hospitals. However, when accessing private medical treatment, you can go through a provider other than the hospital itself. For example, health insurance providers.

Health insurance providers connect their customers with their network of hospitals, specialists and suppliers, ensuring that you receive high-level private treatment through them, even if it’s not as part of an insurance policy. Every provider is different and offers varying benefits, treatments and hospital access. Here are a few of the private healthcare providers we work with:

●     AXA PPP

●     BUPA

●     Aviva

●     Vitality Health

●     The Exeter

●     Freedom Health Insurance

●     PHC

●     WPA

●     CS Healthcare

●     Health-On-Line

●     Cigna

If you’d like more information about accessing private medical treatment through an insurance provider, speak to one of the team, and we’ll let you know the options available to you.

How much can you expect to pay?

The cost of private healthcare treatment varies per provider; there are a lot of variables that make up the cost such as facilities, location, equipment, staff and the company itself. The price shouldn’t fluctuate too much if you’re opting for generic treatments, but if you’re accessing expensive medicine or modern equipment, the cost of private treatment could be higher.

Below are some great resources to help you gauge the cost of private healthcare treatments in the UK:

  1. Green Private Patient Service at Dorset County Hospital
  2. Freedom Procedure Payment Guide
  3. New Victoria Self Pay Packages
  4. Nuffield Health treatment prices
  5. Spre Healthcare
  6. BMI Healthcare

As you can see from the above resources, the cost of private treatment isn’t always realistic for the average individual to pay for themselves. This is where health insurance comes in; it allows you access to a multitude of hospitals, treatments and additional benefits for a monthly, or annual premium. We've explored the factors making up the price and other useful information in our how much is private health insurance blog, so check that out for more information on this area.

How to get private healthcare in the UK

There are several options to access private healthcare in the UK. It may be offered through your employer, you can pay for the treatment in full yourself, take out a medical loan and pay monthly, or purchase private medical insurance. Private medical insurance allows you to access a wide range of treatments and hospitals for a monthly or annual premium, which may be a more cost-effective option than funding a single treatment yourself. If you'd like to compare medical plans, then please get in touch.

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Jasmine Albano
Written by
Jasmine Albano

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