Wait for NHS or Go Private?

It can be difficult to decide whether to wait for NHS services or to go with a private hospital; there are many advantages to private healthcare, which range from shorter waiting lists to specialist care and privacy on wards. However, a decision over whether to go private can depend on what kind of condition you have, and what sort of treatment you need. At the same time, there are some situations where the cost of private healthcare can make it more practical to stick with the NHS.


Waiting for the NHS

For the majority of non-essential cases, waiting for NHS treatment is the preferable option for many people; this is particularly the case if you have local centres and hospitals that you can use, as well as a reliable GP who has treated you for an extended period of time. You may also view private healthcare insurance as too expensive, or you might not have the financial resources to pay for individual treatments from private services.

Going Private

Reasons to go private can come down to wanting medical services that aren’t necessarily covered by the NHS – this can include cosmetic procedures. You might also want to reduce the amount of waiting time for a specialist consultation and surgery, or you may be after a greater degree of flexibility over dates. Again, going private means that you can have more control over when you’re seen and treated.


In terms of a financial commitment, you have to weigh up whether the cost of private medical insurance or self pay, where you just pay for one off treatments, is enough to justify savings in time, and an enhanced degree of flexibility. Private healthcare will not cover, for example, accident and emergency care, while some insurers will exclude specific conditions as not being part of their policies. Always check to see whether the NHS can provide a comparable service before making a commitment to private healthcare.

In the same way, be careful about embarking on a private healthcare scheme where an initial treatment might be extended into long term care, and when complications might arise over surgery. You need to make sure that your insurance policy is flexible enough for these circumstances, or that you have enough savings to be able to cover any unforeseen incidents. When at a private hospital or clinic, ask for an itemised list of what you’ll be expected to pay for.

Whether you wait for NHS treatment or go down a private route ultimately depends on how much you value the benefits that private healthcare does provide; don’t just assume, though, that you cannot get a good service from your local NHS provider, which can vary depending on the part of the country in which you live. Speak to your GP about what your options are, and what the costs will be for opting for private treatment.

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