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UK Private Healthcare Costs

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Thinking of self-paying for a private operation? It’s worth shopping around!

I have seen innumerable patients in my vein clinics over the last 10 years who have come to me as a result of Googling alternatives after being quoted astronomical prices for Varicose Vein treatment in other hospitals and clinics.

Having spent some time in the US studying the latest vein treatments I was struck by how variable the charges were in the US for the same treatment but also that, contrary to popular belief, it was possible to get good private treatment in America for less than is usually charged in the UK.

It got me thinking whether the variations in charges for private vein treatment were mirrored in other specialities. One naively assumes that roughly speaking, if you are to have an operation in a private hospital in the UK, the charges will be similar wherever you go. Most patients then choose which hospital on the recommendation of their GP and for their convenience.

If insured, this variation in price matters little to patients unless of course their consultant is not “fee assured” by say BUPA and they end up with a large excess charge that the insurer passes on to them.

With the recent recession has come a reduction in the numbers of insured patients and an increase in the numbers undergoing “self-pay” private surgery. It certainly matters to these people as charges can vary by many thousands of pounds and not even a billionaire wants to be ripped off.

Excessive charges imply, at the very least, that the organisation is inefficient and who wants to be treated in an inefficient hospital or clinic? If they are inefficient in managing finances how careful are they likely to be with your clinical care?

By a lucky chance, a recent report by Intuition Healthcare ( has blown the lid on this very issue. They undertook research between Jun and Oct of 2013 and analysed 7,800 prices charged for a range of medical and surgical procedures across the main private hospital groups in the UK. Unfortunately, their research did not include specialist providers like Veincentre Ltd whose prices for varicose vein treatment are better even than the lowest provider on their list.

Their report confirms a huge variation in prices for standard surgical procedures, at the extreme by a factor of 10 but commonly a doubling in price from one hospital to another.  Many private hospitals, clinics and consultants try to justify high prices by saying “You get what you pay for”. In some walks of life where there is plenty of opportunities to compare quality for oneself or where there are good consumer advisors of the quality (say restaurants, hotels, TVs or motor cars) then this saying probably has much truth in it. In medicine, it certainly does not and in fact, rather perversely some of the highest prices are charged by some of the most inexperienced doctors and hospitals.

Patients are conned into thinking that a low price must mean poor quality and a high price of better quality. The report gives many examples of price variations that are simply not justified by facilities, geography, expertise, experience or results. The prices appear entirely random in relation to these criteria.

Below is a list of the price ranges of some of the common operations. When asking for quotes be sure to check what it includes and be very wary if prices are quoted as “from ££” or qualifiers are given like “An accurate quote can only be provided after your consultation”. You may end up paying for expensive tests even before knowing what the treatment will cost.

It certainly is worth shopping around for the best price and worth travelling especially for outpatient or day case procedures. Don’t make your choice on price alone though. Check out the consultant’s CV and experience, CQC reports of the clinic and reviews on sites like and Your GP will also be a good source of advice but make your choice first and then check it with them otherwise there is a good chance that you will just be sent to your nearest private hospital regardless of the local expertise and price.

Operation Lowest price Highest price
Varicose vein treatment (EVLA) Both legs £2800
The Edinburgh Clinic
BMI 3 Shires
Varicose vein treatment (VNUS)
Both legs
Nuffield Warwickshire
Nuffield Woking
Cataract £1200
King Edward VII
Spire Thames Valley
Breast Reconstruction £2065
Nuffield North Staffs
Nuffield York
Bunions £1734
Spire Thames Valley
BMI The Chiltern
Bursitis injection £597
BMI The Chaucer
BMI 3 Shires
Carpal tunnel £925
BMI Sarum Rd
BMI Woodlands
Circumcision £967
Aspen Parkside
BMI Werndale
Gastroscopy £615
Aspen Claremont
Hysteroscopy £775
Spire Elland
London Bridge
Cholecystectomy £4000
BMI Bath
Spire Tunbridge Wells
Hysterectomy £4200
Spire Dunedin
Harley St at UCH
Arthroscopy £666
Spire Hull
Spire Wellesley
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