Private healthcare vs. the NHS 1440 x 639
13 June 2018

Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has grown to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service. You could argue it’s the most cost-effective healthcare system in the world in terms of the extent of care it provides, and while its difficulties are widely documented, it’s also internationally renowned as a system for quality healthcare delivery. 

Despite this, the UK’s private healthcare market hit £5.6 billion in value in 2015, according to research firm, LaingBuisson, with providers and commentators reporting annual growth of 15-25%. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of private healthcare and the NHS in the UK? 

Waiting times

For everyone it seems, waiting times are one of the main reasons why people turn to private health; they want to cut down the time they have to wait to have a procedure. Latest reports state that more than 400,000 patients are now waiting more than the maximum 18 weeks after referral for treatment, up by 60,000 since 2014.  


One of the advantages of private healthcare is that it allows users to have a choice of consultants, hospitals and treatments, but an NHS constitution mirrors this: 

‘Everyone who is cared for by the NHS in England has formal rights to make choices about the service that they receive. These include the right to choose a GP surgery, to state which GP you’d like to see, to choose which hospital you’re treated at, and to receive information to support your choices.’ 


Don’t expect mixed gender wards or lack of privacy in a private hospital. They provide relaxing and high-quality rooms; you may even have an ensuite bathroom. You’ll benefit from non-restricted visitation hours and a greater choice of food, and you’re more likely to be seen by the same consultant. 

Breadth of treatment

Private healthcare insurance doesn’t cover all treatments and your treatment will be dependent on your level of insurance. You might not find the same depth of experience for complex treatments in private hospitals as you would on the NHS. 

The NHS won’t pay for some niche drugs because of cost; you’re more likely to have access to those sorts of drugs if you’re being treated privately. 


Cost is the main reason why people stay with the NHS; it provides free treatment to millions, 365 days per year. The price of private healthcare varies depending on your level of cover and whether you use ‘pay as you go’ options. 

The average monthly premium for a 50-year old non-smoker with £500 deductible excess is approximately £88 based on having a full outpatient plan. 

Price varies on a ‘pay as you go’ option depending on your level of treatment; for example, you can expect to pay in excess of £10,000 (national average), for a knee replacement. 

The level of care you receive through private healthcare or the NHS shouldn’t differ hugely as they’re both dedicated to providing each patient the highest level of care, but factors surrounding both the NHS and private healthcare create different experiences.