Private medical care – how not to get ripped off

Opting for private medical care can mean you receive treatment more quickly and at a location which is more convenient for you. However, how can you be sure you are picking the best quality medical care? NHS treatment, hospitals and practitioners are all regulated and scrutinised by the public, media and government alike, however, things are not always as transparent when it comes to private medical care. This is particularly true when choosing medical care abroad.

Not doing your research beforehand can result in poor decisions and in the worst cases, poor practice and clinical negligence. Negative outcomes may result in compensation payment, though this will do little to repair the psychological damage and stress which can be caused by inadequate private medical services.

Many people have specific reasons for choosing to take out private medical insurance and care. Not all drugs and treatment are available through the NHS, so if you are looking for a specialist procedure then this is often available through a private healthcare provider.

Nowadays, you don’t even need to be on a monthly payment scheme to get private care, as many firms offer a ‘self-pay’ option, which involves a one-off payment for direct treatment, such as surgery. This is usually the option chosen by those who go abroad for procedures. Costs will differ depending on the provider, so it’s advisable to seek advice from a financial specialist when making your decision. Choosing independent advice is all-important, as the opinion and guidance you receive should be unbiased: check that your advisor is regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

If you do choose the ‘self-pay’ option there are a number of things to look for in a contract, and remember, any doubts or concerns should be raised and fully explained to you. The contract you receive should clearly set out the treatments, care, tests and aftercare which are included. Although these will differ, there are a few basics which any high quality practice should provide. These include nursing care, operating theatre fees, drugs and dressings and a private room.

Many opt for medical care abroad, which often comes with lower fees compared with the UK. In these cases, it important to research your provider extensively beforehand. The International Society for Quality in Health Care is a universal body for accreditation for medical travel, and can be used to help check and ensure the standard of care. Always check a surgeon’s training and patient testimonials, though be careful, as these are often not independently verified.

Today, there are a number of UK-based companies which offer specialist travel and medical packages – booking through an operator may be more costly, but mean that you are more likely to receive better quality care and treatment. If booking through an operator, always ask for an exact breakdown of costs and services, so these can be compared.

Research in advance, seek professional financial advice and always scutinise contract fully to ensure you receive a high standard of medical care from your chosen provider.