Is Private Medical Insurance Better than the NHS?

The cost of private health care treatment continues to escalate. Due to the high cost of private treatment in private hospitals, many think they provide better services.

Because of this belief, they opt to use private medical insurance (PMI) to cover their private health treatment.

Because of the long waiting list, many patients are shifting from NHS to private healthcare. They continue to look for a private medical insurance broker who can help them get the best private medical insurance cover, depending on their treatment.

But which is actually better?

What Is the NHS?

The National Health Service (NHS) is a government-funded healthcare system that provides healthcare for all UK citizens.

Since its founding in 1948, the NHS has been globally recognized for its services, value, and affordability. It also became the world’s largest healthcare system financed by general taxes. Its services are separated into hospital and specialist services, general practitioner and dental services, and local health authority services.

The following are some of the services provided by NHS for free:

  • Hospital treatment in accident and emergency (A&E) cases
  • Consultations with your general practitioner or nurse
  • Maternity services
  • Minor injury treatment in clinics
  • Treatment with a consultant or specialist if with GP referral
  • Contraception and sexual health services

What Is Private Medical Insurance?

Private medical insurance or PMI pays for medical treatments and procedures done in private health care facilities. To have medical insurance, you need to purchase an insurance policy and pay a premium to cover your condition or treatment to have medical insurance.

The following are included and can be included in your PMI coverage:

  • Hospital admission cost
  • Diagnostic test procedures such as CT scans and MRI
  • Surgery
  • Hospital accommodation and nursing care
  • Consultant or specialist fee
  • Cancer drugs (some insurance policies include drugs not available on the NHS)
  • Mental health treatment
  • Outpatient consultation
  • Complementary therapies

Why Is Private Medical Insurance Becoming Popular?

Though the NHS offers free services, PMI complements the services of the NHS by providing policies that cover the cost of prompt access to private medical treatment, treatment of acute conditions, and access to other services and medicine not always available on the NHS.

Below are other reasons why patients prefer PMI:

1.   Waiting Lists

Due to the free treatment and services offered by the NHS, many people are queuing to get their treatment done. This is why waiting can take a few days to several weeks, depending on the number of people who need the treatment.

Patients with private medical insurance policies can significantly decrease their waiting time, acquiring their treatmentfaster. Some medical insurance plans also let their policyholder choose a private general practitioner (GP).

2.   Quality and Type of Care or Services

Both private medical insurance and the NHS offer great quality services. Since the NHS offers free treatment and services, private healthcare institutions strive to provide modern and more comfortable facilities and more advanced treatment in some areas to be better than the NHS. Also, the key advantage PMI offers is the ability to choose your private hospital, physician, and treatment.

3.   Cost

The NHS is publicly funded, and the whole population has access to free medical care. You can either pay bills yourself or use private medical insurance to trim your bill significantly in private healthcare. The cost of PMI depends on the coverage provided by your insurance, your present health condition, and other personal circumstances. Factors influencing PMI cost are age, number of individuals covered, family history, pre-existing condition, lifestyle, and residential area.

4.   Medicine and Type of Treatment

Some niche drugs, such as cancer drugs, can be very expensive, and the NHS may not cover them. Therefore, patients may need to be referred to private health care facilities for access.

However, the drugs and type of treatment you can access via PMI depend on the level of cover and benefits listed on your insurance policy. Some complex treatments have to be done on the NHS because they may not be available privately.

Can You Combine NHS and Private Medical Insurance?

Private medical insurance should not be seen as a replacement but as a complementary service alongside the NHS for the following reason:

Chronic Conditions

Private medical insurance will not cover chronic conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, etc. If you want private treatment with these conditions, you will need to self-pay. If you don’t want to pay expensive medical bills, the NHS provides their treatments for free.

Accident and Emergency (A&E)

The NHS only offers A&E because most hospitals don’t have the facilities to offer these services.

Healthcare for Children

The NHS offers immediate priority to children, which makes the waiting time to get treatment quicker. PMI also gives an option to add children to your policy.


NHS and private medical insurance both offer quality health care services. The answer to whether what is better will depend on your condition, the type of treatment required, and how you want those treatments to be rendered.

If you want to receive treatment quicker, avail drugs and services not covered by the NHS, have an acute illness, and have a more comfortable facility, you can choose PMI. However, if you cannot meet the premium payment of insurance, choose the NHS with free services. Additionally, depending on your condition and ability to pay, you can still combine treatment on the NHS and private medical insurance.