Whether medical insurance is right for you or not will depend on a great many different factors, some practical, some personal. Private medical insurance (PMI) gives you greater choices about where and when you will be treated, and by whom. It allows you more control over your situation and can put you touch with higher quality facilities.

This article provides help to enable you to decide whether to take out private medical insurance (PMI). It 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.

Self-employed or key personnel

One of the biggest advantages of PMI is that you will not have to wait for treatment as you do on an NHS waiting list. If you are self-employed, or are a key member of your team at work, getting back to good health as quickly as possible could be very important. If you compare the potential cost of work lost through illness or sick days with the price or your policy, you will probably find your cover is worth every penny. Even if you never make a claim PMI can be well worthwhile for self-employed people, simply for the peace of mind of knowing you’ll receive swift treatment and be back to work fast, should you ever need it.

Reducing the risk of infection

If you’re particularly concerned with the risks from so-called hospital super-bugs, such as Clostridium difficile and MRSA, then private medical insurance could help ease those fears. Private hospitals tend to have a better record on infections such as these for several reasons. Firstly, most patients will be treated in a private, single room, reducing the risk of cross infection from other patients. Secondly, because there is less pressure on beds there’s more time for thorough cleaning in between patients. Finally, private hospitals generally have more resources to invest in the cleaning and maintenance of their wards.


For many people, the attraction of PMI is simply the convenience of knowing you will receive the treatment you need, when you need it at a time and place of your choosing. This means you can fit your treatment around your schedule, instead of having to work around a set date, often weeks or months in the future. That said, the new NHS initiative introduced in March 2008 gives patients greater choice of where they are treated, and one of the comparison criteria is the length of waiting lists at each hospital. This is not quite the same as choosing when you are treated, but it can help reduce waiting times a little.

Quality and Privacy

One undeniable advantage of private medical insurance is access to high-quality private hospitals where you will usually be treated in a private room with en-suite facilities. Compare this to the possibility of being treated on a multi-bed, mixed-sex ward with shared facilities, open to the constant flow of visitors, medical staff, porters etc, and it’s easy to see the attraction of the private sector. For some people, the dignity provided by this aspect alone is enough to justify the cost.

Of course, there are counter arguments to all of these points, and in each case you would need to balance the importance of that aspect against the cost of PMI. Essentially it boils down to a question of how much your presence at work / protection from disease / convenience / dignity are worth to you.

Private medical insurance is available on a sliding scale, allowing you to find a balance between your preferences and how much you’re prepared to pay to satisfy them. For example, BUPA provide cover for heart and cancer only, so if these are the conditions that concern you most, then you can insure for these relatively cheaply. Most providers also offer a range of services, from basic in-patient only cover to comprehensive cover that gives you access from initial consultation right through to bespoke convalescent care. Once again, it’s up to you to decide on the right balance between cutting the cost of your cover and cutting back on the benefits you receive.

At the end of the day, there is no single answer to the question of whether you should take out medical insurance or not, since everyone’s circumstances and preferences are different. Over seven million people in the UK have taken out private cover, so there are clearly many advantages.

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