If you're a patient without health insurance, and you don't want to wait for surgery on the NHS, you can always opt to "go private" by doing a "fixed price surgery" deal with your local hospital. So... does it pay to shop around?
In our latest report - the Private Healthcare UK Self-Pay Market Study 2015 - we found a variation of £6,000 in the cost of a private hip replacement from private hospitals in Reading and Harpenden. The report analysed over 7,500 prices for private treatment and surgery in the UK. Nowadays, most private hospitals offer a "Fixed Price Surgery" package. If you don't have private medical insurance and you don't want to wait for the NHS, you can agree a fixed price deal with a private hospital. It will include the surgeon's fees and all hospital inpatient and theatre costs.
The publication of the report of the Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the private healthcare sector has encouraged greater transparency in terms of pricing in private hospitals. We found it much easier to gather pricing information for this report. But what stands out from our pricing analysis is the massive variation in prices quoted by different providers.
The range of prices provided for some procedures varied by more than 100% from the lowest to the highest. For example:
- The published price of a single area MRI scan varies across the UK from £200 to £813.
- The published price of cataract surgery varies across the UK from £1,850 to £3,405.
- The published price of a hip replacement varies across the UK from £8,833 to £14,981.
So, a patient living in Harpenden, needing a hip replacement and willing to pay for the operation, can save around £6,000 by going to the Circle Hospital in Reading rather than their local private hospital in Harpenden.
Is healthcare that much cheaper West of London? Is the quality of surgeon and hospital much lower, explaining the bargain price? Does Circle Reading "pile it high and sell it cheap" when it comes to hip replacements?
I doubt that any of these statements are true. Different companies, different approaches to pricing healthcare services..... I guess.
But it shows how for a private patient nowadays, it pays to shop around!