A A large group of private hospitals said they have seen a doubling of the number of patients who have chosen to pay out of pocket for a range of procedures because they fear they will not be seen as the NHS grapples with a backlog of operations .
HCA Healthcare, which runs some of London’s best-known private hospitals, including Portland and Lister, as well as private care at Guy’s, said: “We have seen the number of self-payment procedures doubling in hip surgeries, ophthalmology (cataracts) and abdominal procedures last year.
“People are also coming to our London hospitals from further than normal, particularly from the south and southwest of England, where we have seen 25% to 35% more self-funded patients.
Spire Healthcare, which operates 39 private hospitals across the UK, has also reported an upsurge. Its COO, John Forrest, said: “The biggest increase in inquiries comes from patients requiring orthopedic, obstetric / gynecological and ophthalmic care. These are people who often suffer from debilitating illnesses who might otherwise have to wait several months for treatment. “
NHS England figures show that in June more people than ever – 1.85 million – were waiting more than 18 weeks for planned hospital surgery, such as knee and hip operations. The number of people awaiting hospital treatment for over a year has increased from 1,000 to 50,500.
But he is working hard to restore non-Covid services and patients are urged to seek NHS help when they need it.
The cost of direct payment will be the biggest deterrent for anyone hoping to avoid NHS queues. Price lists are hard to find on most private hospital websites – and every patient is different – but research conducted earlier this year by myTribe medical insurance brokers on prices in London and the south from England revealed the exorbitant fees charged on the most popular procedures. He found:
• A hip replacement would cost £ 14,050 at one of HCA’s London hospitals, dropping to £ 11,676 at a BMI hospital in Hampshire, with an average cost in its sample of £ 12,857.
• Knee replacement surgery cost £ 13,050 at Nuffield Wessex Hospital outside Southampton and £ 14,850 at HCA in London, with an average of £ 13,067.
• Cataract surgery on one eye costs an average of £ 2,513, ranging from £ 2,270 at Ramsay New Hall Hospital in Salisbury to £ 2,785 in Nuffield Wessex.
Separate research conducted in 2019 by health consulting firm LaingBuisson found huge regional variations within the same hospital groups. For example, a hip replacement costs £ 8,110 at Spire Murrayfield in Edinburgh but £ 15,050 at Spire Harpenden in Hertfordshire.
Despite sky-high prices, self-pay has become an increasingly important part of the private healthcare market, with individuals in the UK spending around £ 1.7bn per year on treatment and accounting for around 20 % of revenues of private hospitals.
Private health insurance policies can be a cheaper way to access health care than paying directly, but not if you’re looking for urgent treatment, especially for a pre-existing condition. “You don’t try to buy home insurance when the house is on fire,” said Chris Steele, director of myTribe.
Company-paid coverage accounts for around 75% of the roughly 4 million people who have private health insurance in the UK, with the market dominated by a handful of large players such as Bupa, Axa PPP (now renamed Axa Health) and Aviva.
If you choose to purchase an individual policy, the cost will depend on many factors, increasing sharply with age, from just under £ 1,000 per year for a healthy 30 year old to £ 6,000 or more for someone approaching. 80 years old. . Most insurers have maximum age limits for purchasing coverage and anyone over the age of 80 will have a hard time getting a policy.
Age, location, pre-existing conditions, and smoking will all influence the price you pay. If you state that you want to use London hospitals, you should expect to pay significantly more, while smokers can expect premiums around 10% higher. Sex makes little difference.
The price will also depend on the deductible – which is the amount you pay for each claim. This can range from zero to £ 1,500 and the higher the selected excess, the lower the cost of the premium. On most policies, you pay the deductible only once, with no further deductible applied to salaries in the year covered by the policy.
We asked myTribe for the typical costs of full coverage for people of different age groups, assuming a deductible of £ 100 and the person does not smoke.
He said a 30-year-old would pay around £ 69 per month / £ 828 per year; a 40 year old man, £ 85 per month / £ 1,020 per year; a 50 year old man, £ 115 per month / £ 1,380 per year; and a 60 year old, £ 175 per month / £ 2,100 per year.
The vast majority of new policies are written on the basis of what is called a ‘moratorium’, which means that pre-existing conditions for which you have received advice, treatment or follow-up in the past five years are automatically excluded. For this reason, insurers do not need you to send a medical history. But when you make a claim, they will ask your GP if the condition was present before your policy start date.
As to whether an existing policy will cover you for coronavirus-related treatment, in medical emergencies, private health care is of little use. Insurers generally say they don’t cover testing and screening and expect the NHS to plan for any Covid-19 treatment.
During the emergency phase of the pandemic, with many private health facilities taken over by the NHS, getting elective surgery proved to be very difficult – and in any case, many people did not want to go to the hospital. One provider, WPA, said there had been a “noticeable reduction” in private medical claims during the lockdown and has since issued two refunds to customers, accounting for around 7% of its revenue. But other insurers have yet to follow suit, arguing pent-up demand will lead to a rapid increase in claims in the months to come.