With the NHS providing a comprehensive range of blood tests to diagnose current health problems, is it worth paying to have blood tests done privately? In many circumstances, the answer is yes, as private blood tests can provide peace of mind, health monitoring and discretion that you simply cannot get through your family doctor.

This article on private blood tests is by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

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Why have private blood tests?

In an ideal world, you would be able to get any blood test you needed, or wanted, quickly and discreetly on the NHS. Unfortunately, the financial demands on the service mean that NHS blood tests tend to be limited to those that are really needed. That means those required to diagnose and treat current health problems. Although there are some preventative programmes, especially for the elderly, the NHS simply does not have the funds to offer a comprehensive range of predictive blood tests for anyone who wants them simply for their own peace of mind.

Private blood tests fill this gap by providing a fast, efficient service that offers any test you want, when you want it, as long as you are prepared to pay the appropriate fee.

Types of private blood tests

Naturally, private clinics offer the full range of diagnostic private blood tests that are available on the NHS. However they also offer additional services, including:

  • Private blood tests for health monitoring
  • Early tests for asymptomatic conditions
  • Private blood tests for risk factors
  • Tests for hereditary conditions
  • Discreet private blood tests for STDs and HIV
  • Legally binding private blood tests for paternity
  • Advanced blood tests not yet available on the NHS

Tests for health monitoring

With many people now taking an active interest in their own health by booking regular private health assessments, private blood tests are playing an increasingly important preventative role.

In these situations, private blood tests can often spot diseases in their early stages, long before there are any obvious symptoms. This allows you to seek treatment much sooner, making it more likely that that treatment will be effective. Private blood tests can even be used to predict possible future conditions by identifying risk factors and hereditary markers. This can help you to make crucial lifestyle adjustments to compensate.

As a means of health assessment, private blood tests can be worth every penny. They provide peace of mind if they find nothing and they give an early warning if they identify a potential problem.

Tests for sexual health

Another key area for private blood tests is sexual health. Many people feel uncomfortable talking to their family doctor about sexual health issues and then seeing him or her the following week about their child’s asthma check, or whatever. Having private blood tests to check for conditions such as HIV and sexually transmitted diseases can save this embarrassment. In other cases, the discretion provided by a private blood test is the important factor. Simple tests such as HIV and STDs can often be done via the post, so that the patient does not even have to attend the clinic.

Similarly discreet home test kits can also be used to establish paternity, either where personal interests are involved, or where the private blood tests have been ordered by the courts or the CSA to help decide financial support.

Advanced blood tests

Occasionally, there is no alternative to private blood tests, as the technology is so new and cutting edge that it has yet to be approved or funded for the NHS by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). For example, new private blood tests pioneered in the United States can now detect even the smallest amount of untreated or returning cancer, long before it takes hold again. This innovative test can make all the difference to the treatment of a cancer patient, avoiding unnecessary additional treatment or identifying where more care is required.

The cost of tests

The cost of private blood tests depends on the type of test and often the area you live in. Tests in Central London, for example, will cost more than a provincial clinic. There are many different tests, available, but guide prices for the most common private blood tests include:

  • HIV test = £80 - £200
  • Cholesterol test = £35 - £50
  • Paternity test = £280 (for two adults and one child)
  • Full health check = approx £100 plus consultation costs

The innovative cancer tests described above is currently around £3,000, but this price is expected to reduce quickly as technology advances.

Are they worth the money?

Whether or not private blood tests are worth the money will depend on your own personal circumstances and priorities. Tests are not cheap, but the opportunity to identify diseases early could be priceless, and the peace of mind of a clean bill of health is also hard to quantify in monetary terms. The discretion of private blood tests are worth the costs alone for some people, where their reputation or their relationship is at stake should the test become public. For others, the conclusive truth of paternity, or otherwise, is equally worth paying for. If you do decide that private blood tests are worth the money for you, then it is worth shopping around to get the best deal, especially since online access has created such a competitive market.

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Private blood tests: worth the money?