Is Private Treatment better than NHS Treatment?

Waiting Lists

One of the areas in which private treatment is almost always going to be better than NHS treatment is the amount of time you will have to wait for your procedure. Because the NHS covers such a large amount of people and such a wide range of treatments and procedures if your problem isn’t life threatening it is probable you will have a while to wait. This is not always the case, but your private health insurance may be able to offer you a guarantee on the maximum length of time you will have to wait for a procedure, and you may want the peace of mind. In this respect private treatment is preferable to NHS treatment because having to wait a long time for treatment can cause more stress or even aggravate the problem.

Range of Available Treatments

It maybe that your treatment is not available on the NHS. This is because some drugs are available in private hospitals before the testing has been completed in clinical trials. This will apply to new drugs or procedures where the clinical trials are still underway, so the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has not had a chance to review the treatment yet. This means the NHS has not yet got evidence that the new treatment is better than the standard or current treatment they are using. Even once NICE have recommended that the NHS start using a particular drug or treatment it may take along time to implement because of the cost of buying new equipment and training new staff. It is down to your local health authority to implement the new treatments, and some do so faster than others (creating what is sometimes referred to as the postcode lottery). For people suffering from painful and disabling illnesses such as cancer any new kind of treatment may seem like an attractive option. This may make private treatment seem better than the NHS (although of course the fact that the treatments available privately and not nationally are like that because they have not yet passed full clinical trials may put some people off).

Quality of Service

If you are receiving private treatment it is likely you will have more options available for you when it comes to the service you receive. Depending on your package you may be guaranteed a private room, the standards of food in the hospital or clinic may be higher, and you may have other benefits such as a television in your room. You may also receive more face time with your doctor in a private clinic because they do not have the same amount of patients to deal with as NHS doctors, although this does not necessarily mean that private doctors are any better at what they are doing. Feeling that the staff are taking more time to explain things to you may ease your mind and make the procedure less stressful. You may also be able to have more say about when, as well as where, your treatment occurs. This means that the treatment may not be as disruptive to your everyday life as it may be on the NHS – you can schedule it around work and other commitments.

However – it is important to remember that with private health insurance (as opposed to just private healthcare in general) a lot depends on the package and policy you have selected and paid for. It is important to be realistic about private healthcare and to check your policy carefully. Some private hospitals only provide basic post-operative care because that is all that is included in your package. You may have to pay out additional charges if you wish to receive more aftercare. Some of the newest and best expertise is only provided by the NHS. For instance some of the best doctors may choose to only take NHS patients because of their personal views on privatisation. Some private medical cover is limited after a certain time in the day, so if you happen to be taken ill at night you may end up receiving treatment at your local NHS hospital anyway.

For many it is the speed, convenience and comfort offered that makes private treatment so attractive. The decision to go for private health insurance has to be a personal one based on your own needs and lifestyle. It depends very much on your personal circumstances; most of us want a fast treatment and comfortable accommodation, which is perhaps more likely with private healthcare, but the degree to which we want it depends on the cost and on our experience of the NHS. While private treatment may be better (faster, easier, more comfortable) it may not be worth the cost of health insurance to you, especially if you can only afford a policy which means there is a chance you would have to use NHS facilities anyway.


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