The facts are eerie: Seven million people on the NHS waiting list are patients who have had to wait three months to start treatment for cancer, or who have had to wait up to two years for non-urgent surgery such as knee and hip replacements – and that’s before the flood of NHS strikes. things could get much worse.
It’s no surprise that the numbers choosing to self-finance private treatment have increased by more than a third since the pandemic, according to figures published in the BMJ.
For example, figures from the Private Health Information Network show that between 2019 and 2022, self-funded hip replacements increased by 184 percent and knee replacements by 153 percent.
“People want to take control of where and when they run their operations,” says PHIN spokesperson Alistair Moses. “It’s not just that there is a waiting list, it’s not clear how long the waiting list will last, so uncertainty means people make choices. [go private]”
1. Hip and knee prostheses
Ultimately, the decision to pursue private health care depends not only on personal circumstances, but also on how much of an impact a condition has on your quality of life. According to data from PHIN, it’s pretty revealing why joint operations and other optional procedures such as cataract surgeries make up nearly all of the top ten self-funded procedures.
The pain and restricted movement resulting from the need for joint replacement can have a serious impact on livelihood. “People look at it and realize it’s worth the investment because you’ll be able to get back to work faster,” says Moses.
Elective surgeries currently come with a very long waiting list on the NHS: some patients are reportedly waiting more than 1,000 days [roughly two years and seven months] for knee and hip replacements.
According to PHIN’s website, the typical fee for an initial consultation for knee replacement is £180 to £250; the cost of the procedure can range from £950 to £2,500; and follow-up appointments cost between £100-150. However, other sources report that the ‘package cost’ of knee replacement is much higher, according to market data firm Go Private: between £12-15,000.
2. Hernia repair
Another non-emergency procedure that is sliding down the list of priorities in the NHS is hernia repair. In some areas, you may only have surgery if your hernia is growing or there is a risk of strangulation (cutting off your blood supply). Many hospitals in the private sector can offer quick access.
Inguinal hernia repair treatment (for the most common type of hernia found in the groin) is the third most common self-funded surgery. PHIN says a typical fee for an initial consultation is between £150 and £233; The fee for the procedure itself ranges from £300 to £800. Go Private says private hernia repair costs between £2,500-4,000.
3. Cataract surgery
If your cataracts seriously affect your eyesight, cataract surgery is usually offered on the NHS. However, as with joint replacements, although it is a simple procedure that takes only half an hour, there can be a long waiting period. Data from NHS hospitals in London and Bedfordshire showed an average waiting period of nine months in 2021.
Longer waiting lists can pose a health threat; it makes patients more susceptible to accidents due to poor vision and means that surgery may be more difficult to perform.
It’s no surprise that it’s the largest self-funded private surgery by volume – more than 11,000 procedures were performed in the independent sector between April and June last year. But it is not cheap; Self-funded private cataract surgery costs between £838 and £2,445 depending on your UK location (and this does not include consultant fees).
4. Endoscopies and colonoscopies
Diagnostic endoscopies and colonoscopies are also among the top ten self-funded procedures, up 16 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The main reason for this is waiting times – more and more people are going private to circumvent the long NHS queues for tests and results. Any patient with potential cancer symptoms should be seen within two weeks, but figures from last October show that seven out of 10 NHS trusts have failed to meet this target.
This pushes people to go private. “We all know that uncertainty can be really tough,” says David Furness, director of policy at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network. “A diagnostic test can give you that peace of mind or help you figure out what to do next.” Furness claims that in the private sector you’ll be looking at a wait time of weeks rather than months.
5. Emergency GP appointments
Private GPs are also becoming increasingly popular, with private clinics and remote services popping up everywhere to cope with demand. While private GPs are often available the same day or the next day, around two million people on the NHS in October last year had to wait more than 28 days for an appointment.
With appointments starting from £40 with some providers. Bupa charges £79 for a 15-minute in-person appointment, but video consultation is slightly cheaper through providers like Babylon Health who charge £49 for a first-time consultation (or £149 for an annual subscription). .
How do you pay?
Almost all private hospitals and insurers require referrals. “Many journeys in the private sector start with an NHS GP referral, and then people can get that referral and be admitted to a private hospital. What you have then is a first meeting with an expert about what should happen next,” says Furness.
A typical fee ranges from £175 to £250, according to PHIN’s data based on over 8,000 UK consultants, but this varies by specialisation. A consultant will also charge for the procedure itself and for aftercare or follow-up calls – either as part of the “package fee” or through separate invoices. They are required by law to state the expected cost of treatment, but this may change if you experience complications.