Skip to main content

As the number of patients taking out private healthcare insurance rises here are the key things to consider when choosing to go private or NHS

With the current NHS backlog at an all-time high, it may not come as a surprise that insurers are reporting an increase in sales of its private medical cover. 

Last month the official estimate suggested that 7.2 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in the NHS; the highest total since records began in 2007.

It was also recently revealed that there were 820,000 UK private inpatient and day-case admissions in 2022; the highest number since data began being tracked back in 2016. This increase appears to be driven by the long waiting times to undergo treatment in the NHS and a wish from patients to accelerate their treatment.

Questions patients should consider to feel in control of their health

Whether accessing care from a private provider or through the NHS, patients want to feel in control of their health.

Here are some key questions patients may want to consider before committing to private care

  • Are there intensive care facilities if any complications arise?
  • Consider any transfers between private and NHS hospitals that may be involved.
  • What level of staffing and specialist teams are there in a private hospital?

Another consideration for patients is co-ordinated care. Although healthcare providers may work well individually, if they're not working well together, they may be failing people who move between them, such as patients who are moved from GPs to NHS hospitals to private hospitals. Ensuring a seamless move between healthcare providers is crucial for patient safety.

Waiting times shouldn't dictate whether to go private

The decision as to whether to go private for healthcare shouldn't just be dictated by NHS waiting times. Patients should be encouraged to research private hospitals and make an informed decision about what's best for their health and safety.

The majority of care delivered by independent, private hospitals is efficient and safe. However, an increase in transparency of the differences between types of healthcare providers and an emphasis on co-ordinated care should be promoted to patients when making a decision about their health.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting patients affected by healthcare issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.