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Private healthcare vs the NHS: Which should you choose?

Read time: 5 mins

Whether you’re not feeling well and struggling to get a doctor’s appointment, been waiting an age to see a Consultant, or haven’t received a date for an operation that will get you feeling like yourself again, you might have thought about going private.

Is private healthcare worth the cost though, and how do you weigh up whether you should stick with the NHS or explore other options? From the quality of care, to comfort and overall experience, we look at both sides of the private healthcare vs NHS debate.

Public vs private healthcare: Emergency care

When you need emergency care, the NHS is often your best option, as most private hospitals do not have Accident and Emergency (A&E) facilities.

However, some hospitals do offer walk-in services or private urgent care facilities.

For example, at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital, patients can access our private care clinic, Casualty First — a self-pay service for minor accidents, injuries and illnesses, including fractures, wounds, bladder problems and chest complaints. You will require an appointment, although we can see most people on the same day. Choosing this service for urgent but non life-threatening issues gives you access to experienced A&E doctors and allows you to avoid lengthy NHS queues.

If you’ve hit your head, been in a major accident, or think you might behaving a heart attack or stroke, you should always dial 999 or go to your local NHS A&E department.

Public vs private healthcare: Quality and type of care

Many people wonder if private healthcare is better than the NHS. While there are definitely advantages to going private, the truth is that the standard of care is the same.

All doctors, regardless of where they work, are required to do what’s right in all circumstances and bound by the same strict regulations. Many doctors also work simultaneously within the NHS and in private hospitals — you wouldn’t expect a doctor to provide a lower standard of care just because you’re on a public hospital ward.

However, the overall experience of getting treated privately can contribute to the perspective of a higher standard of care. Private facilities are modern and more comfortable, service tends to be more efficient, and Consultants can offer more personalised one-on-one care due to a reduced caseload.

Private hospitals can also offer a wider range of treatments and procedures due to higher budgets for equipment, medication and specialists.

Public vs private healthcare: Facilities

Because private hospitals have higher budgets, patients also benefit from superior facilities. Instead of feeling exposed on a cramped clinical ward, you’ll enjoy hotel-like facilities such as a private room with comfortable bedding, air conditioning and a smart TV, as well as an ensuite bathroom and a greater choice of food.

Public vs private healthcare: Waiting times

When you’re not feeling yourself, your first step is usually to book an appointment with your NHS GP. With them being so much in demand, it can sometimes take weeks before you manage to see a doctor, and you won’t always get the referral or treatment you need on the first visit.

If you require an operation, you’ll face a long wait on the NHS. While the NHS aims to book all patients for non-urgent procedures within 18 weeks, it often takes much longer.

With private healthcare, you can get a private GP appointment the same or next day. And after your consultation, you could be booked in for surgery or treatment just a few days after that.

Public vs private healthcare: Cost

When weighing up private healthcare versus the NHS, cost is a critical — and often the most decisive — factor. Because the NHS is publicly funded, in part by National Insurance contributions, the whole population has access to free medical care.

To access private healthcare, you have two main options. You can pay for treatment yourself, or you can take out health insurance, which can significantly trim your bill. You might also be able to access private healthcare via your employer or a third-party sponsor.

The cost of private healthcare depends on the hospital you choose and the treatment you need. We are transparent and consider our services to be highly competitive.We also offer several packages that are cheaper than our competitors.

Private healthcare vs the NHS: Which is better?

The decision to explore private healthcare, or go with the NHS, is one only you can make and will depend on your budget; whether or not you have health insurance; and the treatment you need.

If you’re concerned about how long you might have to wait for treatment on the NHS, and this is an important factor in your decision, you can consult the NHS Waiting List Tracker, which displays the current waiting list and average waiting time in your area.

You should also consult your health insurance provider to make sure your condition is covered. For example, if your plan does not cover chronic conditions, you may prefer to get treatment on the NHS.

Finally, even if you choose to pay for private care, you are always entitled to free NHS care. For example, you may choose to see a private GP and be referred to the NHS for a non-urgent operation, especially if it’s not impacting your quality of life. Likewise, you can see your local GP and ask to be referred to a private hospital for your treatment and recovery.

At a fundamental level, the level of care and commitment you receive from a medical professional won’t vary from NHS to private hospitals, so in that respect, neither is better than the other. However, for superior facilities, fast and efficient services, and improved access to Consultants who have the time and capacity to get to know you and give you one-on-one attention, private healthcare has the advantage.

If you’d like to book a private GP appointment at our state-of-the-art private Hospital, call our team, or fill in the booking form

Posted on: 16 January 2024