The Main Differences Between the NHS and Private Medical Healthcare

Mark Benson

Mark Benson

Money Savings Advice Differences between the NHS & Private Medical

If you are considering private medical insurance, it is worth noting how the sector works with the NHS. Many people automatically assume that everything of a medical nature will be carried out by a private hospital when this is not the case.

It is certainly worth having medical insurance, and there are ways of keeping the cost down, but don’t assume you have cover for everything.

Private medical insurance is certainly becoming more popular as a means of arranging consultations and treatment quicker than you might do on the NHS.

However, there are a number of issues which need to be addressed regarding the relationship between private medical insurance and NHS services.

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Will Private Healthcare Insurance Reduce Waiting Times?

At this moment in time, you could wait up to 2 weeks to receive an appointment with your GP - which can be difficult if you have a potentially serious issue. Even after being referred by your GP, it can take many months to receive routine treatment such as hip replacements on the NHS.

If you have private health cover, you can very often reduce the waiting time significantly with the use of virtual/face-to-face GP appointments. If additional treatment is required, then you will be referred immediately and be seen much faster than you would do on the NHS.

How Do Private Healthcare Facilities Compared to the NHS?

The NHS has been around since 1948 and is the world’s largest publicly funded healthcare service. It is unfair to compare and contrast the facilities available via the NHS and private healthcare institutions because they are totally different markets.

Many people compare private healthcare facilities to a “hotel-like experience” with a greater choice of services and food with visiting times unlikely to be restricted.

Can I Choose My Hospital and Treatment Time With Private Healthcare?

The vast majority of private healthcare operators will offer a degree of flexibility with regards to the timing of appointments and choice of hospital. This will depend upon facilities in your local area and the availability of the consultants, surgeons, etc. There are no such options when it comes to NHS treatment, and you would likely have a longer waiting time.

Are All Drug Treatments Available on the NHS?

While it is fair to say that the range of drug treatment available in the private healthcare sector is greater than that covered by the NHS, the range will depend upon the type of policy you have.

We know that there are various drugs available which are not covered by the NHS budget; thereby in these circumstances, private healthcare would be required. While not all drug treatments would be covered by private medical insurance, there is certainly greater access compared to the NHS.

Can I Use My Private Medical Insurance for A&E Type Services?

Many people automatically assume that private medical insurance is available for all medical emergencies. It isn’t. If you require accident and emergency services, then you will need to attend your local NHS hospital. The vast majority of private hospitals do not offer such services.

Can I Get Private Medical Insurance for Chronic Conditions?

If you already suffer from a chronic condition, it is unlikely that you would qualify for standard private medical insurance. There may be situations where you can become a “self-pay patient”, but this can be extremely expensive. Therefore, where chronic conditions are involved, many people will revert to the NHS as there may be scope to reduce the traditional waiting times.

Does the NHS Provide Specific Healthcare for Children?

Many people may not be aware, but the NHS has always given priority to children, thereby leading to significantly reduced waiting times compared to adults. That said, where additional treatment/surgery may be required there may still be significant delays.

As a consequence, more and more people are now adding their family to their own private medical insurance. For non-critical treatment, the majority of people still use the NHS.

Do Private Medical Facilities Have Better Equipment Than the NHS?

You tend to find that private medical facilities have budgets which allow them to acquire some of the latest cutting-edge equipment. That is not to say this type of equipment will not eventually emerge in the NHS, but it may take longer.

In general, there tends to be less red tape when it comes to private medical facilities compared to the NHS. As a consequence, the decision-making process can often be much quicker in the private sector.

Is the NHS Really Free?

The NHS has always been free at the point of delivery although recently we have seen the introduction of more private facilities/services under the NHS umbrella. There has been talk of an additional NHS tax but so far nothing concrete.

Can I Receive Private Treatment on the NHS?

The introduction of the “patient choice” directive has increased competition and choice for patients. On occasion, there may be an opportunity to receive an NHS funded operation in a private hospital.

This tends to be when facilities are stretched to the limit, and the treatment is potentially time-critical. When it comes to private medical facilities, the process is much simpler, much quicker and more flexible.

Will the NHS Always Be Free?

This is a political hot potato and an issue which continues to grab the headlines year-on-year. The NHS has been free since 1948, but the ever-growing pressure on budgets and facilities creates more challenges each year.

The fact that private medical insurance continues to grow in popularity is a reflection of the stretched budget and stretched facilities of the NHS. Whether the NHS will ever charge at the point of delivery is a highly charged discussion.

Is Private Medical Insurance Tax-Deductible?

Under normal circumstances, private medical insurance premiums are not tax-deductible because they are a personal benefit. Indeed, if offered as a free service by your employer, they would be treated as a “benefit in kind” upon which tax would be payable.


There are many significant and many subtle differences between the NHS and private medical facilities. In reality, NHS and private medical facilities actually work together and are not necessarily in competition.

How Can Money Savings Advice Help You With Private Medical Insurance?

Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading Private Medical Insurance companies. They have already helped thousands of people get the best PMI cover, and, they can do the same for you.

Choosing an independent adviser means they won’t recommend a policy unless they are sure it is in your best interests. Their advice is also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.

If you would like to speak to one of these brokers, then click on the below and answer the very simple questions.

Money Savings Advice Author Mark Benson

Mark Benson

Mark has been writing professionally for over ten years for the financial sector. Having started in the financial world as a stock-broker in central London and then moving to equities trader Mark is one of our senior financial writers who has a vast knowledge of multiple financial sectors.

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