Private Hospitals in the UK

Why go private?

Private hospitals in the UK report an increasing number of patients turning to them for care. One of the fastest growing groups is those wanting hip replacements and the top reason given is that the patient's quality of life has deteriorated to such a level that they are simply not willing to wait any longer for an NHS bed.

Although we focus on hospitals that cater for people with  hip-related issues, the principles of accessing private health care are the same for any type of treatment and all private hospitals will offer a range of treatments for different conditions.

Its not just speed of access to the operating theatre that matters. For people with a busy life style, being able to book appointments that suit their convenience is a real bonus. For mums this would be during school hours but business people usually opt for early evening appointments. What's more choosing private health care means you can slot in the operation (and the time needed for recuperation) into a less frantic time at work or during school term or holidays to suit your child care arrangements.

With private care you will be seen by the consultant himself. In state funded hospitals the consultant concentrates on particularly tricky or interesting cases and the chances are you will be seen by his registrar.

Of course there are other benefits too. Most private hospitals in the UK will provide you with an ensuite room, attentive nursing staff, a real choice of healthy, gourmet food, and an internet connection so you can keep in touch with the office, family and friends.

Sounds good? But who pays?

Accessing Private Hospitals in the UK

There are three routes in: -

  • Self-funding: - expensive for sure but it does mean you get to the top of the waiting list and can be operated on by the consultant of your choice. It is possible to mix it up a bit and have the operation done privately and the physiotherapy on the NHS. But don't hold your breath on that one as accessing physical therapy after a hip replacement may prove a substantial challenge even for those who have their operation on the NHS.
luxury wheelchair
  • UK private health insurance - definitely a great idea and especially so if your company pays for it. The down side to having your hip replacement funded by private health insurance is that you may not be able to have the procedure done where you want or by the consultant you want. You may also discover that your policy doesn't cover everything you expected - so read that small print!
  • NHS funded - yes the NHS will sometimes pay for treatment in private hospitals in the UK or (though rarely) abroad; their aims being to reduce waiting lists and meet government targets. Before you get over-excited about this you may find that, although the level of medical care is the same for NHS funded patients in private hospitals, the facilities are of a lower standard, for instance you may share a room or have a more limited range of food options .

Some considerations

It is rare for a private hospital in the UK to have an intensive care unit (ICU). Many have a high dependency unit which will cope with the few instances where a hip replacement patient needs more intensive medical care. 

chart, needle and stethoscope

However, for the very rare cases where an ICU is needed the patient will need to be transferred to a NHS hospital. Some NHS hospitals have a private wing which means that private patients have ready access to an ICU.

It is important for you to know what you are buying into when you sign up for surgery. Check what is included in the quote you are given - surgeon, anaesthetist, medication, medical imaging, medication and so on. Then ask the clinic about what happens if things go wrong e.g. you develop a hip replacement infection or a DVT? Is treatment for these, and the prolonged hospital stay they will entail, covered in the agreed price or will you have to pay out more? Even if the whole process goes well make sure you know if essentials like physiotherapy and follow-up appointments are included - and for how long.

Choosing a private hospital - UK

If you are researching private hospitals in the UK, don't just opt for the hospital closest to you or the one that your friend had her surgery in. What was great for her might not be right for you. Everyone is individual and you need to spend time researching which is the best hospital for you and your individual condition.

  • The Surgeon: - you are looking for a respected surgeon who is experienced, not just in hip replacement surgery, but in the actual type of hip replacement surgery you are going to have. Check out his qualifications and ask him how many of your specific procedures has he already done.
  • The Clinic: - is it set up primarily for orthopaedic surgery or something else? Your best choice is to opt for one that specialises in orthopaedics.

Check out the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) website: -

All independent health providers must be registered with the CQC and in order to register they must meet an agreed set of standards which cover: -

  • The quality of treatment and services
  • The safety and cleanliness of premises and equipment
  • Staff's qualifications and skills
  • Arrangements for further training and professional development
  • Procedures for handling complaints.

Other options

Not so long ago the only options for hip patients were either to go to their local hospital or to go to one of the private hospitals in the uk. This is no longer the case. As an NHS patient you can chose to be treated in any NHS hospital (and some independent ones) in England and Wales As a private patient you can be treated here or abroad - with countries as diverse as India, Poland and Mexico all offering first rate surgery and a fraction of the price of private care in the UK.

Related Links: 

Hip Replacement Infection 

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