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NHS Vs Private Healthcare: What are the differences?

28th October 2020

The UK’s National Health Service is one of the largest publicly funded health services in the world. Despite many believing it to be underfunded, the NHS is world-renowned for providing a high standard of healthcare that is free at the point of delivery. 


Private healthcare, on the other hand, can be very costly. And that’s not only the difference. In this article, we pick apart what separates public from private healthcare, to help you decide which is best for your needs. 

Differences in waiting times

For those using the NHS, booking an appointment with a GP can mean waiting anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. The time you wait will depend on how many others are looking to book an appointment at the same practice. Because of funding constraints, it’s also possible to experience waiting times of six months for non-emergency routine operations. 


Private healthcare organisations tend to have more contingency, more resources and fewer patients. This means that waiting times are usually much, much shorter. Furthermore, many health insurance plans cover virtual GP appointments, which further shorten waiting times (although, it’s worth noting, this service is also freely available in certain areas of the country through Babylon).


Comfort: You get what you pay for

Whilst shorter waiting times may be what attracts people into private healthcare, comfort is what allures people to carry on using it. Whilst the NHS will be trying to get you home as soon as possible to free up another bed, private healthcare will be more personal and less clinical. 


Everything from the waiting room to the treatment room, it can feel more like a hotel than a hospital. Typically, you can enjoy better food, modern ensuite bathrooms and a lot more privacy. Visitation hours are also less likely to be restricted when going private too.


Choice in NHS vs private healthcare

Unsurprisingly, when you’re going private you will get a lot more choice. Which hospital, consultant and treatment you desire can usually be fulfilled. On paper, the NHS claims to mirror this. However, due to the logistics of longer waiting times and some of the administration involved, you’re going to experience less choice with the NHS.


Cost differences

The NHS is free, which is why it has many more users than private healthcare. We all pay for the NHS through taxes regardless of whether or not we want to use it. The impressiveness of offering everyone in society free healthcare, even those who aren’t paying tax, can only be gauged when taking a look at the costs of private healthcare.


A routine inguinal hernia repair may set you back over £3,000, whilst knee replacement surgery is often over £10,000. Of course, these treatments are free within the NHS.


The National Economic Research Associates found the average British surgeon within private healthcare is paid over 50% more than other countries for a coronary bypass, and 35% more for hernias.


Final Word

The great position UK residents are in is that they have a choice. The NHS provides a solid foundation of free healthcare, but if you’re looking for faster, more comfortable and more personal healthcare, the UK has some of the best private healthcare in the world.


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