Private Weight Loss Surgery

Going private is something that many weight loss surgery patients consider, due to a host of factors.  Many patients who go private have had no option, as they have not been able to get their weight loss surgery on the NHS.  For some the NHS waiting lists are just too long.  Waiting lists for weight loss surgery vary considerably throughout the country, some weight loss surgeries being around 18 months, some patients have been known to have to wait up to 4 years for some procedures.  For many others, going private is a choice they make due to the many advantages of private treatment.  Many patients want a high standard of care, which they feel is only available privately.  Having your own room, en-suite bathroom, private menu and dedicated medical staff on call 24 hours a day are just some examples of what you can expect if having the surgery privately. However, all this does come with a price tag!

NHS Verses Private Treatment

Waiting lists are a big issue for many patients, going private can mean having the surgery in a few weeks rather than many months or even years on the NHS.  More and more private weight loss surgery clinics and hospitals are offering reduced price ‘packages’ where you pay one price for the surgery, aftercare, accommodation, pre-checks and assessments.  This is often the more affordable option, but do look into what you get with these packages.  Do your research and find out what you are paying for and what you can expect to get.  Pre-checks and tests are vital and some private hospitals and clinics do not do all the tests if you have not paid for them.  Aftercare is particularly important so do check what you are getting and for how long.  The more complicated your weight loss surgery procedure, the more important aftercare will be and that it continues for long enough after surgery. 

Many private clinics and hospitals do offer the latest facilities and technologies and very experienced surgeons.  If you are finding your own private clinic or hospital then do your research, there are an increasing number of options available.  Make contact with each hospital and clinic and ask all the questions you need about the experience and reputation of the surgeons, which procedures the clinic is known for, what aftercare is on offer.  Ask for a breakdown of what the aftercare includes, as this can vary widely from clinic to clinic.  One area where some private weight loss surgery patients can be at a disadvantage is in the area of emergency care.  Some private clinics and hospitals do not have the expertise to deal with emergencies should something go wrong, so you could be transferred to a NHS hospital. 

Cost of Weight Loss Surgery Privately

Once you have decided to have your weight loss surgery privately there is the matter of how to pay for your treatment.  The cost of weight loss surgery at a private clinic or hospital is a major obstacle for many patients.  The costs can vary considerably for each weight loss surgery patient, so again do your research.  There are several factors that will make a difference to how much you pay:

  • Your health pre-surgery, this will determine the number of tests needed and the risks involved. 
  • Any complicating factors that may higher the chances of risks during surgery or to recovery time.
  • The surgeon chosen
  • The hospital or clinic
  • The geographical location in the country
  • The length of time you have in the hospital or clinic
  • The type of aftercare you need post surgery
  • Your age
  • The type of weight loss surgery procedure

There will also be hidden costs, in fact the full cost of your weight loss surgery is not likely to be known until you have met several times with your surgeon and had a full assessment of your individual case.  For some, the costs can end up spiraling with plastic surgery and follow up procedures they had not anticipated.  It is best to over-budget for your treatment and cost in extras so you are not left with any nasty surprises after your treatment. 

The costs of weight loss surgery privately can be quite hefty and can be difficult for some weight loss surgery patients to raise.  As an approximate guide, the cost of a gastric band through a private clinic or hospital is around £4,000 - £8,000 and around £8,000-£15,000 for a gastric bypass.  Depending on the aftercare you might need or opt for this price tag could go up to as much as £10,000 – £12,000.  The more complex your surgery the likelihood is that the cost of surgery will be more due to the specialist expertise required.   Prices vary considerably, so always check what the costs covers in some detail and compare clinics and hospitals in different geographical areas.

Be as thorough as you can in your research with the costs, some private clinics and hospitals charge for things that you may not have considered such as the anesthesiologist’s fee, the operating room fee… the list goes on.  As a private patient you should expect the hospital or clinic to follow the NICE guidelines, as any NHS patient can expect.  Ask for a full breakdown of costs and make sure it is clear that there will be no extra costs on top of any quote you may be given pre-surgery.  It is important to have a grasp on all the costs as the most detailed budget can fall short.  Although no weight loss surgery patient wants to think about what could go wrong it is always best to plan for such a situation.  The cost of adjustment or correction surgery could be around £100 for the adjustment of a gastric band for example or it could run into thousands of pounds for more serious complications.  If you are at risk you will most likely be transferred by your private clinic or hospital to the NHS for emergency treatment if the private clinic or hospital can’t offer it.  Having correction surgery at a private clinic or hospital can put a strain on your budget if you have not allowed for these extra costs, so do ask your surgeon how much correction surgeries might be, should you need them. 

Paying for good aftercare is very important, should things go wrong or even if you have minor complications, aftercare is vital.  Some patients who fail to consider the aftercare they need, can find themselves in discomfort with cramps, vomiting and sweating while they wait for correction surgery on the NHS.  Other patients fail to consider the full impact of the surgery on their lives and do not allow for the emotional support they may need through support systems such as counseling or cognitive therapy. 

Going Private – Finding a Hospital or Clinic

There are an increasing number of hospitals and clinics to choose from and it can be hard to know which one is best for you.  Again good research will pay off, compile a list of needs and translate these into questions for when you visit the hospital or clinic.  Spend time collecting as much information as you can, often there is a lot to find out just on the Internet or from literature.  Some of the things you might like to ask when researching private surgery could be:

  • Does the cost cover pre-op assessment/tests?
  • What does the aftercare package look like?
  • Will you have access to a dietitian, counselor and if so are these costs extra?
  • What period of aftercare is covered?
  • What if you need additional care?
  • What could be the potential costs of adjustment/correction surgery?

It is crucial that you visit the hospital or clinic and arrange to have an initial consultation with the surgeon who will be operating on you.  Most importantly don’t be afraid to ask questions, do not feel embarrassed or as if you are wasting the surgeon’s time if you ask lots of questions.  The medical team will expect you to have concerns and many queries and will be pleased to offer advice and support.  It is important that your quality of care is not compromised.  Do ask the surgeon what aftercare he/she thinks maybe necessary in the future.  It would be worth researching others who have had the procedure you are having and asking them about aftercare.  

Do check that your private medical insurance covers weight loss surgery as not all of them do.  It is common for obesity surgery not to be covered, many weight loss surgery support groups are campaigning to change this and get obesity surgery included in medical insurance. 

There are growing numbers desperate for weight loss surgery and finding for a host of reasons they are unable to have the surgery on the NHS.  Approximately 46% of weight loss surgery patients have their surgery on the NHS, leaving the majority having their treatment privately.  Some patients wait many years on waiting lists and face a postcode lottery, so it is understandable many patients are opting for private clinics and hospitals.  Depression is common with morbidly obese patients and waiting years for surgery can send some into a downward spiral of despair.  Some patients feel that they are being forced to wait to develop life-threatening conditions such as diabetes before they can be put on a priority list for weight loss surgery on the NHS.  With such high demand for weight loss surgeries and limited time and resources available on the NHS, waiting lists are all too common.  Those with a BMI of 40 or more are usually referred for surgery on the NHS as priority, leaving many patients with lower BMI’s to seek out private treatment.

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