NHS waiting lists at 'breaking point' but is private healthcare the answer?
Dec 2022
Clinical Negligence

NHS waiting lists are at ‘breaking point’ but is private healthcare the answer?

With NHS waiting lists reported as hitting a new all-time high of 7.2 million for routine treatment, it is understandable that a patient may consider approaching the private sector. Could private healthcare be the answer and what should you consider before paying for treatment?

Where to start?
It is not necessary to have pre-existing health insurance if you are willing to cover the cost of consultations, diagnostic tests and treatment out of your own pocket.

If you wish to discuss going private, a good place to start is a discussion with your own GP. Your GP would need to refer you to a private consultant and will likely be able to provide a list of doctors with the relevant expertise.

You could also consider undertaking your own research and local private hospitals will have lists of doctors and their various specialties. It is a good idea to check the doctor or surgeon is registered with a relevant medical college, for example, that an orthopedic surgeon is registered with the Royal College of Surgeons or a gynecologist is registered with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

What can you expect to pay?
The cost of private healthcare really does depend on the nature of the medical issue or treatment required. However it is likely you will incur a GP referral fee, an initial consultation fee with the private doctor, fees for diagnostic tests (for example blood tests, x-rays or MRI scans), and the fee for the treatment or surgery itself.

It is important to clarify with your doctor if you will require further follow up, whether that be a clinic appointment, physiotherapy or hydrotherapy, and whether those costs have been included in the fees quoted. Ensure your consultant or surgeon confirms that they have insurance and ask for those details.

Standard of Care?
It is often thought that patients can expect a higher standard of medical care in a private setting however, this is inaccurate. It is important to remember that the standard of care that you can expect to receive is exactly the same whether your treatment is performed in the NHS or privately.

Private care can sometimes lead to quicker access to treatment and therefore quicker resolution of symptoms. Patients often have their own rooms, a gourmet hot food menu, and impressive facilities and therefore the experience itself may feel different, but the standard of medical care should be the same.

It is also important to remember that many private hospitals do not have onsite facilities, such as an intensive care unit, and if there were to be complications, a patient would be transferred to the local NHS hospital for ongoing treatment and management.

What if something goes wrong?
If you are unhappy with the care you have received from a private surgeon or hospital, it is still possible to investigate a clinical negligence claim, although claims against private doctors can be more problematic.

We can assist you throughout this process. Sometimes a doctor or their insurer may offer to refund the cost of the procedure as a goodwill gesture, but it is important you seek legal advice before accepting any settlement, especially if you are concerned that you are experiencing ongoing medical complications or ongoing financial losses.

If you have concerns regarding private healthcare you have received, even if you are not sure you wish to bring a legal claim, we strongly recommend you contact us on 0191 227 6677 and one of our specialists will be happy to discuss any concerns that you have.

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