Independent advice on private healthcare
Going private if you don’t have health insurance
- How to check out the hospital or clinic
- How to choose a private hospital or clinic
- Comparing private hospitals and healthcare providers
- Do I need a referral from my GP?
- Going private if you have health insurance
- The practicalities of going private
- How to choose a private doctor
- How do I complain about private treatment?
- What kind of guarantee should I expect?
- What happens if something goes wrong?
- What to consider
- Why go private?
Going private if you don’t have health insurance
You can get private hospital treatment without private health insurance, as a ‘self paying’ patient, which means paying for the treatment yourself with credit card, cash or cheque, usually on or before admission to the hospital. ‘Self paying’ is also an option if it is not possible to get health insurance cover for a pre-existing condition. But be aware that it could become quite expensive if your problem isn't straightforward and you need to see several different specialists before the problem is resolved.
Before deciding to go privately and pay for your operation it is sensible to check out the NHS waiting times in your local area and further afield. If there is a long wait at your local NHS hospital, you have the right to opt for treatment at any other NHS hospital in the UK (or indeed within the European Union – see Guide to a Patient’s Rights under the European Directive on Patient Mobility ).
One option for patients without private health insurance is to research the “fixed price surgery” deals available from your local private hospitals. To locate private hospitals near you, use “Find a hospital” on Private Healthcare UK. The local hospital may also offer payment schemes to enable you to spread the cost of treatment.
The usual process for private treatment without health insurance is as follows:
- Go to your GP. He or she may recommend a specialist and will write a private patient referral letter. (Sometimes the GP will charge for this.) However, you can do some research on the specialist whom you want to be treated by and can ask your GP to refer you to a specific consultant.
- You attend an out-patient appointment with the consultant where relevant tests are carried out (or are booked for a later date) and either an outpatient/inpatient treatment is booked (or no further treatment is necessary). The consultation will typically cost between £150-250 and is normally paid on the day, or settled soon afterwards if no further treatment is needed.
- The consultant will write to your GP to update him or her.
- If you need an operation, you can ask a private hospital to give you a fixed price for surgery. This will include the surgeon’s and anaesthetist’s fees and the hospitals costs for the operation. Take a look at some typical costs for private treatment.
- The consultant may also carry out private operations within his or her NHS hospital. This may be less costly.
- At this stage, you can decide not to go ahead. If you are happy with the price, the admission date is booked and you will pay all or part of the cost before admission to hospital.
- After hospital treatment, the hospital/consultant sends an update to the GP and you will attend a follow up appointment with the consultant.
- If post operative care at the private hospital is not convenient for you, you may need to arrange services such as physiotherapy or rehabilitation near your home or place of work. Make sure that you allow for the cost of this.
What are fixed price surgery schemes?
Many companies (including BMI Healthcare, Spire Healthcare, Nuffield Health and Ramsay Healthcare) operate a ‘fixed price surgery scheme’ for patients which is available for many private operations, and is usually available to most people, at any age. The patient pays a fixed price for the operation which normally includes all medical and nursing care at hospital, the cost of private hospital accommodation, operating theatre fees, drugs and dressings while in hospital, as well as the surgeons' and anaesthetists’ fees (provided that the consultant participates in the scheme).
For more information about the self pay and fixed price surgery schemes offered by UK private hospitals, visit Private Healthcare UK.
Can I get finance or a loan for surgery?
Yes. Specialist finance companies offer competitive personal medical loans and finance schemes specifically for people who don’t have private health insurance and who want to finance their private health treatment or cosmetic surgery operation. Visit the Finance Schemes section of Private Healthcare UK for more information.
Where can I get a quote for surgery?
As a self paying patient, you need to locate and contact local hospitals for a quote, and agree a price for treatment. Take a look at some of the hospitals listed on Private Healthcare UK. If you would like a quote for a fixed-price operation from up to three providers in your area, completeour private surgery enquiry form - you will receive a response within 48 hours.
Do I need a referral from my GP for private treatment?
There are very few private GPs in the UK. So, when you decide to go private, whether you have private health insurance or not, your first step is normally to see your NHS GP. Your NHS GP will write the referral letter for your appointment with a private doctor or specialist.
Many private doctors, consultants and specialists are reluctant to see a patient unless there is a referral letter from the patient's GP. You can check with your preferred consultant’s private secretary to see if this is the case. Many private hospitals will arrange an appointment with one of their consultants, but communication with your GP will take place during your diagnosis and treatment.
GP referral letters are not normally required for physiotherapy, health screening, and cosmetic surgery and dentistry.
If you do not have a GP, your local private hospital may arrange for an appointment for you with a private GP in their outpatient department, if you wish. Or you can find a local private GP practice or clinic.
Once you have seen the GP, he or she will recommend an appropriate specialist. Or you can tell the GP which specialist you would like to see.
Guide to going private
- What is best for you
- Practical advice
- Payment methods