Pay £15,000 to jump the queue for a hip operation on the NHS: Hospitals encourage patients to self-fund knee replacements and cataracts surgery
- Two-thirds of hospitals allow patients to pay for hip, knee and cataract surgery
- Patients can pay up to £15,000 and beat queues of just over a year
- Many hospitals offer all-inclusive packages that work out significantly cheaper
Patients are being allowed to jump growing NHS queues by paying up to £15,000 for a hip replacement.
Hospitals are encouraging people to self-fund procedures that are either heavily rationed or have very long waiting times.
A Daily Mail investigation uncovered how two-thirds of hospitals allow patients to pay out of their pockets for hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery. It follows revelations that patients are having to wait for up to a year for surgery on the NHS.
Many hospitals offer all-inclusive packages that work out significantly cheaper than charging separate fees for the operating theatre time, the consultant and occupying a hospital bed.
But they are still very expensive, with patients paying for a hip replacement at the Royal Free Hospital in North London charged between £13,000 and £15,000. This is twice as much as the procedure would cost the NHS. An average hip replacement is £7,500 depending on the patient’s condition.
Hospitals are encouraging people to pay for procedures that are either heavily rationed or have very long waiting times. At King’s College, it’s £9,850 for a hip replacement
Similarly patients wanting cataract surgery are charged a maximum of £5,125 at Derby Teaching Hospitals. The NHS typically pays just £800 for the procedure, though it involves a less advanced lens.
In return, patients are treated almost immediately.
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Patients awaiting the same procedures on the NHS wait up to a year and many are refused treatment altogether as they are deemed ‘ineligible’.
Earlier this year the Mail revealed three-quarters of trusts were refusing to fund hip and knee operations unless patients were in very severe pain. For cataract surgery, patients must be near-blind.
The Bedford charges £9,000 for a hip replacement. Many hospitals offer all-inclusive packages that work out cheaper
And last week the BMJ said 1,700 patients had been refused hip and knee operations even though their doctors had pleaded their cases.
But campaigners said it was ‘deeply worrying’ that patients were having to choose between finding the money themselves or enduring very long waits.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: ‘It is deeply worrying that we’re apparently sleepwalking towards a situation in which if you want a routine operation such as a hip or knee replacement you either have to pay privately or wait a long time on the NHS. What about the many older people who cannot possibly afford to pay thousands and who are left in pain and distress for months on NHS waiting lists?’
Labour’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth MP said years of cuts have meant we have been left with ‘a two-tier NHS with quick surgery for those with cash while the majority are forced to wait longer and longer in pain’.
Waiting time of just days… or up to a year on the NHS
Prices: £9,000 upwards for hip replacement, cataracts price depends on complexity
Waiting time if you pay: Whenever patient wants
NHS wait: Up to 18 weeks
What does the website say? ‘You don’t need insurance to have access to private healthcare, and our prices are affordable.
‘You can see the consultant you want at a time suited to you and have fast access to a diagnosis, any tests required and the treatment which is right for you.’ One patient testimonial reads: ‘After being cancelled at short notice from the NHS recently, I wanted to thank you all for your help in arranging … to have my operation within a few days.’
Kings College, South London
Prices: £9,850 for a hip replacement, £1,500 for cataracts but consultant fees are extra
Waiting time if you pay: No wait
NHS wait: Just over a year for a hip replacement (average 52 weeks, 4 days)
What does the website say? ‘A dedicated service for patients who wish to have the comfort of their own hotel style room and a more flexible choice of dates for treatment.’
Epsom and St Helier, Surrey
Prices: Up to £11,000 for a hip replacement, up to £1,200 for cataracts
Waiting time if you pay: No waiting time and it depends on patient’s and consultant’s availability
NHS wait: Up to three and a half months
What does the website say? ‘Offers patients the best of both worlds; the independence of private healthcare in a trusted and safe NHS environment.’
Derby Teaching Hospitals
Prices: Up to £12,500 for a hip replacement, up to £5,125 for cataract surgery depending on the type of lens
Waiting time if you pay: 1-2 weeks
NHS wait: Up to 16 weeks
What does the website say? ‘We can quickly treat you for a wide range of procedures … Our procedures are competitively priced and with the knowledge that your money is supporting the NHS we are a great option.’
The Royal Free, North London
Prices: Up to £15,000 for a hip replacement, up to £3,250 for cataracts
Waiting time if you pay: Surgery carried out at mutually convenient time
NHS wait: Up to 23 weeks
What does the website say? ‘Combines the convenience, comfort and personalised attention of a private hospital with the very best state-of-the-art services, technology and professional excellence.’
The Epsom where it’s up to £11,000 for a hip replacement, up to £1,200 for cataracts
The Mail sent Freedom of Information requests to all 150 hospital trusts in England asking them if they allowed patients to self-fund hip and knee replacements and cataracts and if so, the prices and waiting times.
Of the 103 which replied, 65 said they allowed patients to self-fund for one or both procedures. The majority said there was no wait and patients were treated at a mutually convenient time for them and their consultants.
By contrast, NHS waits for the same operations ranged from ten weeks to 52 and a half weeks. Many of the hospitals offer patients the ‘best of both worlds’ – treatment by world-class NHS consultants with the comfort and dignity of private care. They reassure patients their money will be used to support the NHS.
Self-funding is different to having private health insurance as patients pay a one-off fee for an operation or scan. They are treated by NHS consultants who are allowed to top-up their salaries with private work. The hospitals did not provide figures for who had self-funded but experts say demand is increasing in response to lengthening waiting lists and rationing. According to the Private Healthcare UK Self-Pay Market Study 2017, the numbers of patients paying for one-off care increased by 25 per cent on 2016.
NHS England said: ‘Over the coming year the NHS is funding more waiting list operations, including for hip and knee conditions.’
Derby Teaching Hospitals charge up to £12,500 for a hip replacement, up to £5,125 for cataract surgery
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