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Private health insurance?

(31 Posts)
Azie09 Tue 07-Mar-17 09:07:11

Just curious about how many people use or have used private healthcare insurance, was it worth it, etc. I suppose I am asking in the light of the evident demise of the NHS and hearing a number of scare stories about waiting lists, delayed operations, poor care. I've always opposed private health care on principle and anyway, when I've looked it up it always seems hugely expensive. I also imagine that, as with pet insurance, the companies wangle their way out of paying if at all possible! So that's my question!

Beammeupscottie Tue 07-Mar-17 10:00:43

We are covered by my husband's work perk, which continued with him into retirement. But we still pay the first £100 of any treatment we ask for. It is good for a lot of problems that are not classed as emergency. I believe to join later in life is very expensive. I heard at least £1000 a month.

Teetime Tue 07-Mar-17 10:07:11

We have paid Simply Health (prev HSA) for 30 years and it covers our spectacles, dentistry, osteopathy, chiropody etc etc and we certainly get our money's worth so its worth it but the kind of policy we have with them no longer exists but it still may be worth looking into. These things are not covered by the NHS anyway unless certain conditions prevail but for everything else I believe the NHS will deliver and I don't believe the scare stories. At our age and with our pre-existing iI think our premiums would be astronomical. It may be better to pay for a single procedure if you are waiting longer than you wish to be.

Nannarose Tue 07-Mar-17 10:23:38

Broadly speaking, the expertise still lies in the NHS, and private providers will refer anything they can't cope with over to the NHS. What a number of people do is to set aside that money in a savings account, so it is accessible if needed but can be used for other things if not!
My own experience is that the NHS delivers the basics excellently, but I have 'topped up' with private physio, hydrotherapy etc. out of my savings

Charleygirl Tue 07-Mar-17 10:40:09

A friend of mine pays £4000 a year- I am not sure if his wife also has private insurance. It was a perk with his job but now retired he has to pay as he still wants it. He has recently had a knee replacement but he did not receive the aftercare that I did on the NHS.

I paid a reduced sum each month when I had a mortgage and I took advantage of it once for a meniscectomy but it did not cover post op physio or OPD appointment post surgery.

annsixty Tue 07-Mar-17 10:54:17

Friends of mine pay £12000 a year between them and she used it recently for a replacement knee. However all the aids I had provided by the NHS she had to pay for and what she referred to as the OP element did not cover all the physio she needed and she had to pay for several sessions. She was very happy with the result however and said if she had had an appetite she could have lived on smoked salmon and strawberries. Sadly, like me, she just didn't want to eat.

GillT57 Tue 07-Mar-17 11:32:23

Interesting question. Private medicine cherry picks the non emergency surgeries and procedures and I suppose there is an argument that if one person can pay to have their varicose veins fixed privately ( for example) it leaves a space for another patient to have surgery on the NHS. But, having watched the excellent Hospital programme recently, it is apparent that the main reasons for the surge in cancellation of operations is not only unavailability of beds due to cuts in social care which hinders elederly people's discharge to their home, but also a shortage of very expensive ITU beds as hospital trusts try to balance their books. So, if a private patient chooses to have their knee replaced, what happens if they then develop an embolism or go into cardiac arrest? presumably they are rushed into A & E and effectively queue jump, thus another NHS patient gets their operation cancelled. Although everyone is entitled to spend their money as they wish, I am deeply disturbed by the number of 'ordinary' people who are having to consider paying for surgery out of their own savings. Private medicine is not there to make you better, despite all the cosy advertising, it is there to make a profit for the shareholders. The major users of the NHS are the very young and the very old, and by opting out of the expensive parts of medicine such as Intensive care, neo-natal intensive care etc., the private medicine providers are making the costs for the NHS proportionally higher per head for the NHS. Sorry if this wasn't your question, but as others have said, it is not an easy question to answer.

Katek Tue 07-Mar-17 11:48:41

I have used private healthcare and dentistry on a self funded basis for many years and have been in the fortunate position of being able to do so. I've also been fortunate in that I've only had to have one inpatient procedure. I prefer to go down this route both for speed and also the guarantee that I will see the consultant. A friend of mine badly fractured his arm (humerus) in early December and had his surgery to pin/plate the bone cancelled on 4 occasions. He got as far as actually being on the ward, labelled and prepped to be told his op was cancelled. He eventually went privately, was admitted within a couple of days, had the surgery and was home in one day. It's thus kind of delay in the NHS that's forcing people into private healthcare

Katek Tue 07-Mar-17 11:49:23


Azie09 Tue 07-Mar-17 14:06:39

Thanks for those responses. I know it's a difficult question GillT57 and thank you for that helpful reply.

Some years ago, we did have private healthcare as a perk in my husband's job and it was very helpful to be seen quickly when I was suffering lower abdominal pain and worried.

I hate the fact that the NHS is clearly slowly being destroyed, staff are leaving in their droves or are very disenchanted. There are obviously huge differences in the treatment people receive which seems to be related to postcode or simply that they have a good GP, often one they have been with for years.

I have heard a number of disconcerting stories: a friend's father having his cataract operation cancelled three times; another friend awaiting prostate surgery for months; someone in pain who couldn't walk to the end of her garden being refused a hip replacment; worst of all a friend with ovarian cancer whose diagnosis took multiple trips to the GP followed by nearly three months of dithering over the diagnosis followed by three months waiting to start treatment. I know it's difficult to diagnose but I am saddened that after some horrible chemotherapy she was given the all clear but within 9 months was in a hospice. Of course, cancer can return but I do wonder if the delay over diagnosis and treatment didn't help.
I saw a video yesterday on Facebook of a retiring GP setting out in detail the ways in which the NHS is being ripened up for privatization, starting with PFI hospitals which have led to increasing amounts of debt as many predicted they would. I've been lucky enough never to need serious healthcare so I'm just an onlooker and what I see on the news is chilling.

I don't imagine we could afford private healthcare but I was interested to hear views. Fingers crossed I and my family stay healthy.

Luckygirl Tue 07-Mar-17 14:21:25

I paid a lot of money for my hip replacement as I needed to get it done quickly in order to be fit for an important performance, and also to be convalescent at a time when my OH would be fit to help me before his PD deteriorated.

It has been a complete pain in the neck - it is clearly not right and I have moved across to the NHS as there is no way I could afford to get this pigs ear sorted privately. But I have no redress for the lack of success of this surgery. There was no proper follow up in the private sector; there were few aids on offer; some of the staff in the Nuffield hospital were offhand and unpleasant. They are geared up for things going perfectly and just having one tick-box aftercare appointment.

I was also in the situation where my heart was adversely affected by the surgery and I had to be looked after by the NHS coronary care team. I remember one saying ruefully "Ah, we are picking up the Nuffield's pieces again." I would not go privately again for similar surgery (or even for repeating the current surgery which is on the cards) as I would want coronary back up available on site.

They were also very poor on pain relief - in an NHS hospital there would be an onsite pharmacy and sometimes a pain team.

M0nica Tue 07-Mar-17 15:00:38

We have done what Nannarose advocates. We put a regular sum of money in a savings account to cover any medical costs and over the years we have accumulated quite a large sum, which has been drawn on when needed.

We find the value of the private sector is not over the big problems. It is the little aggravating day to day problems. DH developed excruciating pain in his arm last year. For a month he went to and from our GP and all they did was recommend paracetamol. In the end he asked for a referral to a specialist and was told he would have to wait six weeks for an appointment.

So he went privately. Within 10 days DH had seen a specialist and appropriate pain relief was prescribed. He then had an MRI scan and the cause of his problem was diagnosed and treated.

Luckygirl You truly had a horrendous experience, but I am not sure that all Nuffield hospitals have separate doctors and no pharmacies. The specialists at our local Nuffield Hospital all work in the adjoining NHS University hospital and it has its own on-site pharmacy. There have also been many horror stories of poor NHS care. Today I read that a woman died after an NHS hospital put a heart valve in upside down and there was North Staffs and problems in Kent hospitals as well, to name but two. Problems of poor care occur in both sectors.

Luckygirl Tue 07-Mar-17 15:05:28

That is true - but at least you get done in for free on the NHS!

Deedaa Tue 07-Mar-17 15:17:30

I worked for a time in the kitchen of a brand new shiny private hospital. About 100 yards away was the NHS hospital which they relied on for any sort of emergency.It was very nice as long as you wanted carpet on your bedroom floor and the crusts cut off your sandwiches and you weren't having anything more demanding than an ingrowing toe nail removed.

I notice that the people here with private health care are mostly having fairly routine stuff, knee replacemants and so on. It's a lot less satisfactory when you have diseases like cancer and require astronomically expensive drugs and things like stem cell transplants. You may have paid into it all your working life, but there's no guarantee that your condition will be covered or that the treatment you need will be recognised and agreed by the insurance company.

Cold Tue 07-Mar-17 15:38:34

Private hospitals like to cherry pick the routine, low risk and high profit procedures but most do not invest in expensive things like intensive care or even round the clock specialists. If anything goes wrong they just dial 999 and hand it over to the NHS.

A friend had routine gallbladder surgery at a private hospital but later in the evening he was bleeding profusely and the private surgeon had gone home. So the nurses just called an ambulance and sent him to A&E - the NHS had to pick up the bill for the revision operation and the intensive care he needed.

Charleygirl Tue 07-Mar-17 15:54:38

I desperately need a knee replacement on the left but I would not dream of going privately because my right knee, done on the NHS has never been 100% and there is no way that I could have afforded the amount of extra physio and procedures carried out by the Chronic Pain team. It is fine if everything goes well. I live on my own with no help other than a cleaner weekly so I would have had problems coping if turfed out after 3 days. I was in for 7 days.

GillT57 Tue 07-Mar-17 16:19:17

I can speak from experience of private health care, and as many have said on here, it is not always the best, just because you pay for it. My DM was admitted to local Nuffield hospital as part of NHS waiting list clearing initiative; they referred the low risk hip replacements, such as DM. Surgery was fantastic, same surgeon as DF had previously on NHS and a fine, caring surgeon. But, the nursing care was dire, they were very very short staffed, presumably as a cost saving exercise. DM was in a room on her own, needed to get up to go to loo a few hours after coming out of surgery, she rang the bell repeatedly, and nobody came. Eventually she threw a shoe at the back of the door and a passing catering person heard the crash and came in. We did complain, but to no avail, basically denied that it had happened, denied that bell had been rung, denied that DM had been left,post op, on her own for hours, despite what catering lady had reported. Not impressed.

Azie09 Tue 07-Mar-17 16:20:42

This is a slight red herring, apologies, but replying to the comments about the NHS picking things up from the private sector when things go wrong - I wondered if anyone saw that documentary on tv recently about the drug trial that went horribly wrong in 2006 (I think that was the date).

They were trying out a new drug which had been ok in animal studies but the participants in the trial became very ill quite quickly. The pharmaceutical company did not have adequate facilities and the people got shipped off to the local NHS hospital where the amazing medical staff had to deal with patients who had taken a previously unknown drug to which they were having a massive reaction. There was a choice to be made as to whether to give them an immune suppressant or stimulant and luckily the right one was chosen.
I believe the mistakes made in this drug trial led to a change in how trials are run and to where they are held but it seemed a good example of the NHS being asked to pick up the pieces.
I've always been incredibly grateful whenever I've had to go to A&E or visited people in hospital. Whatever gets said, the NHS staff I've seen have been dedicated and just wonderful. They do their best against the odds and I'm glad there are still people training to work within the service. I hope it survives the current crisis.

Charleygirl Tue 07-Mar-17 16:47:07

That ghastly drug trial took place at my local hospital.

M0nica Tue 07-Mar-17 19:07:18

There has been quite a change in private hospitals in the last few years. Once they were used by people who felt they were too posh to be seen in an NHS hospital and had private care for every ill funded by health insurance.

In the last five years, however, more and more patients using private health care are self-funded and they are using private care to remedy the deficiencies of the NHS. Private hospitals are not 'cherry picking' the routine minor ops, routine medical care is what most patients are choosing to have done in them. If anyone has anything serious, they opt for the NHS because they are likely to get speedy and good care. However it is the minor medical problems that are the first to be rationed, refused or delayed, regardless of the suffering or problems this causes the patient.

When DH was suffering such pain he had to stop driving and could barely think or speak, our GPs were indifferent, after 4 weeks of such excruciating pain, when they did agree a referral to a consultant, they told him he would have to wait 6 weeks to see him. That was the point in which we decided to go privately. Two consultations, an MRI scan and a morning's treatment dealt with the problem and if the problem re-occurs, which it could, he can go straight back to the consultant without a GP referral.

harrigran Tue 07-Mar-17 23:11:18

We used to have private health cover which ended when DH retired, we now just pay for treatment as and when we need it, in the last year or two it has cost us less than the annual premium.

Eloethan Wed 08-Mar-17 00:05:46

My husband had knee surgery in an NHS-commissioned private facility. He felt that the post-surgery information and after care given was almost non-existent.

I do not agree with private health care and although I was entitled to it in my previous job I refused it. However, I quite understand why people who are suffering and who are stuck on long waiting lists sometimes opt to pay. If I were in such a situation, I might reluctantly do so myself.

An article in the Telegraph in 2014 quoted from a report about private healthcare by the Centre for Health and Public Interest:

"It was found that 802 people died unexpectedly and a further 921 suffered serious injuries in England in the last four years. It was not possible to determine if these cases could have been avoided, the report said, but private hospitals tended to carry out relatively low risk procedures in which complications should be rare.

"This could mean that the mortality rates of private hospitals are actually higher than reported here and the mortality rates for NHS hospitals include deaths which were the result of procedures carried out in private hospitals."

"Professor Colin Leys said: “The public and regulators have access to more information than ever before about how NHS services are performing but this report shows that the same cannot be said for private hospitals."

Cunco Wed 08-Mar-17 08:51:30

Even for those who can afford health insurance, it can be an expensive gamble. You may spend, say, £5,000 per couple with a high excess of £500 to keep the premium down. If you use the insurance, you pay the first £500 and may be required to pay consultant fees (at £200 or more a time) and any other uncovered items. The private hospitals you may use may be restricted to an available list. If your treatment runs into a renewal period on your insurance, you may have to pay the first £500 again because you are in a new year.

Please note that I say 'may' because T&C of health insurance differ among providers and individuals.

So it's a tricky decision. Do you save your money and hope you do not need a very expensive operation quickly or do you pay up and, possibly, and let's face it, happily find that you didn't need to spend the money. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Badenkate Wed 08-Mar-17 08:52:28

I have had intermittant AF for 7 years (irregular heartbeat). About 10 days ago it started again, and after waiting for a week to see if it would go back to normal, I went on an urgent appointment (with a bit of persuading) to see a doctor in my practise - without much hope since it has had a lot of problems in the last 6 months although nothing to do with the doctors themselves, but now we have a lot of locums. I was looked at and told to go back the next day for an ECG. When I did, I discussed it with another doctor who said that she thought I should go to see a cardiac specialist at the local hospital. She phoned up and got me an appointment that day at the acute medical clinic.

When I got there I had a battery of tests (I now know I'm not diabetic, my thyroid is fine, my chest is clear, my cholesterol level 'is to die for- in a positive sense) but my heart rate was too high. They tried giving me some tablets but they had no effect, so I was admitted onto a ward, given a drip with some other medicine - I was too tired by this time to care what - connected to a heart monitor and thankfully by the next morning things had slowed down. A cardiologist came to see me and we discussed what treatment was best and decided to do one more cardioversion, so I'm now on the list. I'm now back at home.

OK, it was very busy, the waiting rooms were full, I was in a ward with 5 other women, but throughout I was felt as though I was being cared for, they were giving me appropriate treatment, and I couldn't have reasonably asked for more - and I had the reassurance that if anything had gone wrong there was expertise around to deal with it. We are SO lucky to have our NHS.

Cunco Wed 08-Mar-17 09:12:12

Badenkate: Yes, my wife has AF and she received very good treatment when it was discovered. Sadly, on another occasion, when she was sent to A&E as an emergency by her Warfarin Clinic, the admitting nurse failed to understand the urgency of the situation and she was sent home without treatment. Fortunately, she didn't have a major issue (like a stroke) but it was a sufficiently serious case for the Warfarin Clinic to raise a complaint.

We are lucky to have the NHS but it is too hit-and-miss and overstretched. It is also a lottery whether you live close to a good NHS hospital or a bad one.

People argue about how to solve the problem of the NHS and whose fault it is that it is not the service that once they believed it was; but it can be very good or, if you are unlucky, very bad.