More people paying for their own healthcare

Growing numbers of people are choosing to pay for surgery and treatment themselves due to lengthy NHS waiting lists.

Happy female doctor giving prescription to patient in clinic

According to a report from healthcare business intelligence company LaingBuisson, self-pay surgery and treatment accounted for £1.1 billion of revenue for independent hospitals and clinics in 2017, up 9% on the previous year.

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Data from NHS England shows that there were over 4.1m patients waiting for planned NHS surgery at the end of September 2018, an increase of 6% compared with 12 months earlier and the highest number since 2007.

Ways to beat NHS queues

Paying privately for procedures as and when they are required is one way to avoid NHS waiting lists, with private medical insurance another option for those who want to beat the queues.

The main benefits of private medical insurance are that you’ll be able to get a quicker diagnosis and you’ll have a much shorter wait for treatment. Another benefit is that you may have access to medicines which you might not qualify for under the NHS. You can also usually choose where you want to be treated, with most private hospitals offering you access to your own room with a bathroom.

LaingBuisson’s latest Health Cover market report shows that total spending on private medical cover is estimated at £4.81 billion in 2017, with 4m policies taken up.

Many employers offer private medical insurance as part of their workplace benefits, so if you’re considering buying cover, it’s worth checking to see if you have access to a group scheme first.

Premiums for medical insurance can be expensive, particularly for older people who are considered more likely to make a claim, so always do plenty of research before buying to make sure you find cover at the most competitive price possible. Remember too that there are some things that private medical insurance won’t cover, such as any conditions you’ve had prior to taking out insurance, and accident and emergency visits.

Reducing the cost of cover

There are lots of different ways to bring down the cost of private medical insurance to help make cover more affordable.

For example, you may be able to opt for a bigger excess, which is the portion of any insurance claim you must pay yourself. Choosing a larger excess will lower your premiums but the flip-side is that you’ll have to pay out more each time you make a claim.

Leading a healthy lifestyle can also help reduce the cost of premiums, so you may benefit from cheaper cover if you don’t smoke and exercise regularly.

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Another way to bring premiums down is to choose a six week option with your policy. This means that if the NHS can treat you within six weeks, you agree to be treated on the NHS. If the NHS can’t provide you with treatment within six weeks, you can receive treatment privately through your medical insurance.