How to access private medicine

More and more people are switching to private medicine. In doing so, they can receive a better standard of service and avoid the lengthy waiting lists of the NHS.

This article on how to access private medicine is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

After having made the decision to access private medicine, it is important to review all the options. Like any service industry, there are numerous providers that offer varying standards of service at different costs. You may also want to seek out the top consultants in their fields, some of whom only operate out of certain facilities.

Why use private medicine?

The main benefit of private medicine is that it is delivered on your terms; you choose who, where, and when. You will be seen by the same doctor throughout your treatment enabling you to build up a more personal relationship, improving trust, and ensuring smooth handling of your case from start to finish.

Another advantage is the absence of long waiting lists. While the NHS is under severe pressure from the volume of patients it must serve, private hospitals and clinics can offer a consultation, investigation, and surgery within days – as opposed to weeks, months, and in some cases, years.

Importantly, private hospitals have the right facilities and back up. It is not all about the standard of food or accommodation (although this helps).

Selecting the right provider

The private medicine sector includes hospitals that are part of large hospital groups, such as BMI Healthcare, BUPA Hospitals, Capio, and Nuffield Hospitals. It also covers small independent and charitable hospitals, private patient units within NHS Trust hospitals and clinics that specialise in services such as cosmetic surgery and laser eye treatment.

Ultimately, you need to choose the best provider, hospital, and surgeon that fits your needs. Make sure the hospital you go with follows an external complaints procedures code and has been accredited by an external organisation for the quality of its services and procedures.

If you have private medical insurance, be sure the hospital you’re interested in is approved by the insurance company. Alternatively, if you’re self-funding, ensure the hospital offers fixed price packages (most do, but not all). If there is no fixed price package, compare the daily room rates, consultant fees, and procedural expenses with other hospitals. Also, find out if you have a private room or will be sharing with another patient.

It is critical to find out about the hospital’s length of stay policy, what happens if there are complications and further surgery is needed, and who will pay for those additional costs.

How to get private treatment

Firstly, visit your local GP. They may recommend a specialist and will write a private patient referral letter for you. If you wish, you may research a specialist of your own choosing, and ask your GP to refer you to them instead. Try searching the following database of 2,500 private consultants at:

Next, you will have an out-patient appointment with your new consultant. Relevant tests will be carried out and, if necessary, treatment will be booked for a later date. The consultant will write to your GP to update them on your treatment.

On a set date of your choosing, treatment will be performed on an in-patient or out-patient basis. These days, it is more often the latter (this is important to note when choosing a private health insurance policy). The entire cost of the procedure must be paid before admission to hospital.

After treatment, the consultant will send an update to your GP, and you’ll usually attend a follow-up appointment with the consultant to check on the progress of your recovery.

Private medicine abroad

Going abroad for private medical treatment is another option. This is known as medical or surgical tourism. Many hospitals in Europe have excellent surgical facilities and are much more price competitive than in the UK. For instance, a hip replacement here will cost £7,000 - £8,000, whereas in Europe you could find it for £3,000 - £4,000.

However, be aware that any severe side-effects or complications may cause more difficulties than if you were at home. If you need follow-up surgery to correct anything that went wrong, you will need to stay in that country for longer than planned, or make a return trip at your own expense.

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