Choosing Private Health Insurance over the NHS


Nov 29, 2017
NHS Targets

Buying health insurance is an important decision; a way of limiting the impact a sudden illness could have on you and your family. One of the primary reasons people choose private health care is to speed up the treatment process; so I was interested to read a recent article on the BBC news website about NHS targets.

The article ‘Check NHS Cancer, A&E and Operations targets in your area’ gives you the opportunity to do just that; check how your local hospitals measure up when it comes treatment.

Although we are fortunate to have access to the NHS, health insurance otherwise known as private medical insurance or private health care is a way you can bypass the often extremely long queues that can be endured waiting for treatment on the NHS. So this NHS target tracker now gives you the opportunity to see for yourself how your local hospitals are performing based on three critical targets:

  • A& E Response
  • Cancer Care
  • Planned Operations and Care

This means that you can now see for yourself whether choosing the best health insurance plan really could be a good idea. 

What are the NHS Targets?

As mentioned the NHS focuses on three key NHS waiting time measures which includes waiting time experienced when visiting an Accident and Emergency unit; the time it takes for patients to be treated for cancer related illnesses and wait time for non-emergency treatments such as knee and hip replacements.

NHS Target for Accident & Emergency Care

In the case of A&E, performance is measured on the number of patients that are treated, discharged, admitted into hospital or transferred within 4 hours; the target being 95%. Good news if you live in Luton, Yeovil or Hartlepool; not so good if you are in Shrewsbury or Telford.

To be honest though Health Insurance wouldn’t be able to help you here; even if your queues for treatment are long. Private health care is there to help pay for treatment if you fall ill and is designed for what are classed as ‘acute conditions’ that respond quickly to treatment, surgery and tests; not sudden accidents or injuries.

NHS Target for Cancer Care

The way that access to cancer treatment and care is targeted by the NHS can vary by region but essentially the expectation is treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral. The target for this 62 day ruling is 85%; England is currently achieving 82% however residents of Yeovil may want to consider moving as they are currently only achieving 42.9%.  

This is where private medical care can help. You may find that even if you have private health insurance, you are still treated by the NHS, but your access to cancer specialists and tests will be faster so you will reach your diagnosis much quicker. This means that any treatment or operation you require can be arranged sooner.

In addition a number of health insurance providers offer private medical insurance that is specific to cancer care; or ‘add on’ cancer services that can be included in the plan. This may include services such as specialist fees, payment for each day you are treated by the NHS, treatment prescribed by the specialist for side effects from chemotherapy or radiotherapy or stem cell and marrow bone transplants to name but a few.

NHS Targets for Planned Operations & Care

The way this NHS target is measured does vary but in England, Wales and Scotland, it is from the point at which your doctor refers you to when your treatment starts, with targets of 92%, 95% and 90% respectively. This means that you may have already experienced a lengthy wait leading up to being referred by your doctor that won’t be measured in this report.

As with cancer care, choosing health insurance could greatly speed up the diagnosis and treatment, not to mention the bonus of staying in a private hospital room whilst any operation you may require takes place.

Health Insurance plans also give you the option to reduce costs by choosing to be treated by the NHS if the operation is within a certain time frame, so you can use your private medical insurance in conjunction with services that are available on the NHS.

Why do people buy Health Insurance?

In general terms people buy health insurance so they can have some control over what happens if they become ill; avoiding any lengthy NHS waiting lists to enable speedier diagnosis and treatment. So if you have taken a look at the NHS target tracker and as a result decided to compare health insurance plans, here is a list of what you should expect your private medical insurance to include:

  • Speedy access to diagnosis and treatment
  • Appointments with specialists booked quickly and at a location and time to suit you
  • Access to private hospitals and private ensuite rooms with phones, tvs and good quality food
  • Unlimited visiting times for family and friends
  • Access to drugs  and treatments that may not be available on the NHS

In addition there are options you can choose to add to the plan such as cancer care as mentioned, physio and worldwide cover, so it is worth comparing health insurance plans before choosing one that best suits your needs.

As a starting point take a look at our health insurance reviews which provides information on leading health insurance providers such as Aviva, Saga, Bupa, AXA PPP and Vitality. You can also compare heath insurance quotes too.

At the end of the day I think every one of us is thankful for the NHS but as with most things in life, sometimes you just need a bit of a helping hand to make life easier; which is where private health insurance could prove invaluable.

Why not check out how much health insurance could cost

It might be more affordable than you think


Ashley Shepherd is an Over 50s Personal Finance Expert

ashley shepherd

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