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Compare Private Health Care Providers and Policies in the UK

Discover the benefits of private health insurance and find the best provider and policy for your needs with SpotDif.

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What's In This Guide

Why consider private healthcare?

The NHS was born in 1948 to provide free healthcare for all. It's now the single biggest employer in Europe and provides fantastic care and treatment to keep the population of the UK healthy. So, why would anybody need private healthcare?   

 

Well, private health care puts you in control. When operations are cancelled, or waiting lists are too long, your policy removes the uncertainty. You'll always know when and where your treatments will take place. And you could also receive hard-to-access treatments. You'll also have more flexibility to receive treatment where you want, including at home. 


Moreover, private health cover can provide peace of mind, knowing that you and your family members are in good hands. 

 

Private health insurance could be right for you if:  


  • You prefer not to be on a waiting list. 

  • You'd like to choose your hospital and surgeon. 

  • You need access to treatments and drugs that are not available on the NHS

  • You want specialist referrals and treatments. 

  • You prefer the comfort and privacy of a private hospital room. 


At SpotDif, we'll compare the best suppliers for private healthcare in your area in seconds. Just answer a few simple questions; a tailor-made private healthcare policy is just a click away. 

The SpotDif guide to private health insurance 

Private health insurance can seem complex — read on for our guide to private healthcare before comparing providers near you to get the best deal for your needs. 

How does private health insurance work?  

 Your health insurance works like any other insurance. You’ll pay a monthly premium and agree to an excess. As a result, you can claim any private healthcare treatment. 

 

You'll make a GP appointment as usual if you have a medical issue. Ask your doctor what options are available with private healthcare. They may suggest a specialist, or you can choose your own. If you need more clarification, ask for an open referral letter. 

 

If you have comprehensive insurance, you’ll be diagnosed by a private GP.  Once you have a referral letter or a diagnosis from your private GP, contact your insurer. They'll approve your claim and remind you of any policy limits. They may also help you find the right specialists or treatment centres.

What does health insurance cover?

Ultimately, the cover you receive depends on your policy and choice of provider. Common features of a healthcare policy include: 

 

  • In-patient care 
  • Follow-up tests and scans 
  • Consultant appointments 
  • Physiotherapy 
  • Specialist treatments and drugs not available on the NHS 

 

It’s important to note that most policies have exclusions, too. For example, many insurance providers won’t be able to cover you if you have a pre-existing condition or a chronic illness like diabetes, HIV and some cancers. Similarly, most policies won’t cover emergency treatments or elective treatments like cosmetic surgery, or additional pregnancy care.


Treatment-only plans

Some policies only offer treatment. In that case, you’ll be diagnosed through the NHS and then given a referral for private treatment. Otherwise, you can be insured for treatment and diagnosis. As a result, any tests and scans for your diagnosis plus your treatment are carried out privately.  


Add-ons

Like any insurance, you can tailor your private health care policy to your needs. You may have the opportunity to add on extra services — for instance, dental care, eye care, mental health cover or private hospital room options.

How much does health insurance cost in the UK? 


When it comes to costs, there are a few factors that impact your health insurance premiums.  


Your age

Age is the most significant determining factor for insurance premiums. Generally, as we age, our health needs become more complex and the risk of ill health increases. So you would expect to pay around £50.00 as a thirty-year-old, rising to £110.00 when you reach sixty. 


Your location

Insurance premiums are generally higher in London and the South-East as private healthcare costs are higher. However, no matter your postcode, SpotDif can help you get the best provider local to you. 


Pre-existing and chronic conditions

As mentioned, most insurance providers do not cover pre-existing conditions or chronic illnesses. However, you may be able to add cover for these at an additional cost. This is a major factor to consider when contacting different providers for a health insurance quote.


Lifestyle factors

Your health history can influence your premiums based on your risk of developing a serious illness. For instance, how much alcohol you consume and whether you smoke or not.


Family health history

Similarly, you could be at higher risk of developing a serious condition if there’s a family history. As a result, your insurance premiums may be higher. 


Additional benefits

As with most insurance types, the more extras you add, the higher the cost of your policy. 


Who’s covered

As you might expect, a family policy covering multiple people will be more expensive than an individual.

How to choose private health insurance in the UK?  

Comparing private health insurance lets you benchmark different policies. But before you compare health insurance quotes, you need to work out: 


  • What you want to cover, e.g. cancer care. 

  • Who you want to cover, e.g. individual or family. 

  • The types of treatment you want to cover, e.g. dental, physiotherapy. 

  • If you’re prepared to use the NHS alongside private treatment. 

  • Perks and rewards, e.g. discount gym membership or 24-hour helpline. 

  • Whether you want to pay a higher excess for a lower-cost policy. 


Once you know what you’re looking for, use SpotDif to find the best private health insurance quote in your area.  

Can you still use the NHS if you have private health insurance? 

Yes, you can. According to the NHS website, you will continue to:  


  • Receive NHS treatment free of charge. 

  • Only pay for existing charges like prescription charges.  


If you opt for supplementary private care, you won't be disadvantaged concerning any NHS care you receive. In addition, your position on any waiting lists won’t be affected. 

 

However, your treatment should be supervised by one healthcare team. So, if you opt for special lens implants after a cataract operation, for example, you must have the procedure and the implant done privately. 

 

Even with private health insurance, you’ll still use the NHS for emergency cover, including the ambulance service. 

Is going private quicker than the NHS? 

Being able to plan your treatment effectively and stay in control is essential. It's one of the most significant reasons for going private and investing in health insurance. In fact, 53% of people said they opted for  private health care to be seen more quickly in a recent YouGov poll.  

 

Most people choose to go private because of lengthy NHS waiting times. Private health insurance is a wise investment if you're in an area of the country with long waiting times for a GP. You'll be able to see your GP faster and start your course of treatment more quickly.  

What are the most common health insurance plans? 


When you’re looking for health insurance in the UK, the options can seem overwhelming. Let’s break down some of the most common offers you might come across.


1. Private health insurance  

Private health insurance gives you more flexibility and control as it works alongside the NHS. For example, you'll have access to a broader range of treatments and hospitals across the UK. You can also opt for add-ons, including physiotherapy, dental and optical. Cover is available at three levels: 

 

  • Basic covers in-patient treatment with limits on other care. 

  • Mid-range adds outpatient and consultant services. 

  • Comprehensive will cover all your healthcare needs and may protect your entire family. 


2. Health cash plans  

A health cash plan helps you budget for routine care costs, like a dentist trip. You'll pay upfront for everyday healthcare expenses, then reclaim some of the cost from your plan. 


3. Critical illness cover 

This type of insurance pays a tax-free lump sum if you're diagnosed with a critical condition. This one-off payment supports you while you're ill and can be used to pay the mortgage, bills, etc. 

 

Most people opt for private health care insurance for its combination of flexibility and choice. The four most popular health insurance plans are: 


  • Individual policies cover for yourself 

  • Joint policies cover for yourself and a partner 

  • Family policies cover for yourself, your partner and your children 

  • Children's policies for your children

 

The pros and cons of private health insurance

What are the pros of private health care?


Of the three health insurance types we’ve explored above, private healthcare policies are the most popular in the UK. The right cover for you or your family has plenty of benefits, including:


  • Fast access to medical treatment and care: If you have urgent treatment needs or want to control when and where you access treatment. 

  • Shorter waiting times: You can reduce the time for specific procedures or seeing a specialist. 

  • Flexibility and choice: Enjoy a more comprehensive choice of healthcare treatments, facilities and drugs that aren't available on the NHS at a location and time that suits you. 

  • A private room: You won’t have to stay on an open ward if comfort and privacy are important to you. 

  • Bespoke plans to suit you: Tailor your plan to your healthcare needs by adding the treatments you need, including physiotherapy, mental health care, optical and dental. 

  • More time: The NHS has strict limits and deadlines. With private healthcare, you can take the time you need to discuss concerns with your doctor. 


What about the cons?

To make a balanced decision about private healthcare, it’s essential that you’re aware of potential drawbacks.


You may, for example, find that you get better treatment on the NHS — there are excellent NHS hospitals where you’ll receive specialist cancer, stroke or heart care. These hospitals are as good as, or better, than going private. In some cases, you’ll see the same medical staff regardless of whether you go down the private or NHS route. 


Other cons include:

  •  Chronic illnesses aren’t covered: If you have diabetes or some cancers, you won’t benefit.  
  • Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, and it may be expensive to add them. 
  • Private medical insurance can be expensive, and your premiums increase with age.  

What to look out for when getting health insurance

So, when you compare health insurance quotes, what should you be keeping an eye out for?  


Cover level

Firstly, does the policy cover your needs without a limit on treatment? Remember, cheaper policies cap the amount you can claim. 


Exclusions

What's included in your policy? Will it cover the appropriate treatment for you? 


Hospital list

Is your hospital on the list? You can reduce the cost of insurance by opting for a restricted list. 


Rewards and incentives

Are you seeking discounted gym membership or a 24-hour support line? Look out for policies that incentivise healthy behaviour. 


Deferred period

Some policies won’t let you claim during the first three months.

 

Cost

Is the policy affordable now? And how will that change in the future? It’s important to note that there are ways to lower your insurance costs. You could, for instance, opt for a larger excess to reduce your monthly payments. 


Alternatively, you could consider reducing or eliminating outpatient cover to bring down your payments. Another option is to agree to a limited list of hospitals — it may mean longer travel times to get to the treatment centre but can reduce your monthly premiums. 


How many people in the UK have private health insurance? 

Currently, an  estimated 22 million of us have a health insurance policy, up 83% from 2021.  

 

In the UK, we're proud of the universal healthcare the NHS offers. But, as the pandemic showed, it is under strain. So, people are turning to private health care for peace of mind. But is it worth it? 

 

If you’re happy with the standard of care from the NHS, private health insurance won’t be right for you. It can be expensive. Or you may have coverage through work. In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to pay for one-off treatments. 

 

However, you could need private health insurance if: 

  • You don’t want to wait for NHS treatment. 

  • You need access to treatments and drugs not available on the NHS. 

  • You prefer the certainty of getting treatments you want when you want them.  


If this applies to you, we can help you get a private health insurance quote that works for your budget and care needs. 

Can I have two health insurance plans in the UK? 

Yes, you can. For example, you might take out critical illness cover and health insurance.  

 

Your health insurance is there to cover your hospital bills and the costs of your care. Meanwhile, critical illness cover pays a lump sum to cover your bills and mortgage. 

 

If you’re interested in more than one type of cover, we’ll help you compare health insurance for the best deal.

Why you should compare health insurance

Getting the right level of cover can be tricky. It depends on factors like age, general health, lifestyle and budget. That’s why comparing health insurance quotes makes sense. 

 

Getting quotes from different insurers lets you make an informed decision. You'll be able to see the level of cover on offer at a glance. So you can compare costs and benefits and get the best deal. 

 

Look out for the following cover: 

  • Hospital care 

  • Outpatient care and therapies 

  • Scans and tests 

  • Aftercare services 

 

You should also check that extra options like optical, dental, physiotherapist and psychiatric services are available.  

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