Is private healthcare worth it?
NHS waiting lists have hit a record high of 5.6 million and are set to climb even higher. It’s led to a huge boom in people going private… but is it worth it?
There’s no denying that we’re lucky to have the NHS. With free medical care available to the nation, you might wonder, “Why would I even need private healthcare?”
The strain on the NHS
The NHS was overburdened long before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Population growth, longer life expectancy and underfunding have led waiting lists to skyrocket. In February 2020, just days after the first coronavirus case in the UK was reported, the waitlist stood at 4.4 million.
But the pandemic has only made the situation worse. Many “non-essential” procedures and appointments were put on hold as hospitals prioritised patients with the virus, causing the waiting list to soar to record-breaking levels.
It’s frustrating when you’re not feeling well, and you can’t get an appointment, or you still haven’t received a date for an operation that will help you feel like yourself again. Never before has our health been such a priority, so it’s not surprising that more people are going private to get the treatment they need.
Reduced waiting times
With more people waiting for treatment comes longer waiting times overall. While patients shouldn’t wait any longer than 18 weeks for a referral or non-urgent surgery, many are still waiting for treatment after 18 months, and in some cases, over two years!
When you get treatment via the NHS, this probably sounds familiar…
You wait weeks to get an appointment with your local GP. You tell your doctor about your symptoms, only to be sent away and told to come back if things don’t improve. Then, when you go back, you see a different doctor and have to explain yourself all over again!
This might happen repeatedly until you’re eventually referred to a specialist, and then a new wait begins.
Millions of appointments take place every month across the country, often one after another. This makes it impossible for GPs to be completely up to speed before their patient walks through the door.
By contrast, you can typically get an appointment the same or the next day when you go private. Then, you might be booked in for surgery the same week.
To put this into perspective, you could be fully recovered from your operation and back to normality long before you’d even get an appointment date on the NHS.
You don’t exactly go to the hospital for a good time, but you do want to be comfortable. The trouble with most NHS hospitals is that you’re often stuck on a packed ward in full view of other patients and visitors.
Lack of privacy on a public hospital ward
Private hospitals have bigger budgets that they invest into creating a relaxing atmosphere. In fact, a few nights at a private hospital is more akin to a hotel stay. You can sleep in a luxurious room with all the bells and whistles, including air conditioning, tasteful decor, Smart TV and an ensuite bathroom.
Is it worth the cost?
There’s no getting away from the fact that private healthcare can be expensive. Whether it’s worth it is something only you can decide. Ultimately, it’ll depend on your budget, whether you have health insurance and the treatment you need.
For those waiting months for “non-urgent” treatment while enduring severe pain and suffering a reduced quality of life, plumping for private surgery can be well worth it.
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