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UK healthcare costs

The costs of private medical care in the UK are much lower than the equivalent costs for the same procedure in the US. Although the National Health Service gets some bad press, it is, in reality, a very efficient and effective publicly funded health system. This infrastructure has enabled a large and thriving private healthcare sector to grow up and co-exist and there are positive links between the two.

Private surgery and private medical care for hip replacements, knee replacements, other orthopaedic treatments, cosmetic surgery, weight loss and obesity surgery and heart surgery are extremely competitive. The prices may be somewhat higher than medical tourist destinations in India but they are certainly comparable with those in Thailand and other locations around the world. Many Americans may not consider the UK but the costs are only one of the benefits of coming to Britain as a medical tourist.

Based on data from 2007/2008, it is estimated that one in three people aged 65 or over in the US could lack enough health insurance to cover their medical costs. In 2007, the total number of people without any health insurance topped 45 million. With rising healthcare costs and the impact of the continuing recession, it is no surprise that American citizens are choosing to self-pay for medical treatment outside the US. Thailand, India, Korea and bordering Mexico are popular destinations but for many Americans, the cultural and language barriers present some difficulties.

As the UK private healthcare system continues to strengthen and expand, and more NHS hospitals and centres of excellence offer private medical treatment to patients from oversees, more Americans are starting to see the UK as a medical tourist destination. UK healthcare costs are lower than many prospective patients outside the UK think.

Value and clinical excellence

UK private hospitals offer a high standard of clinical care and facilities, with experienced consultants and highly trained medical staff. There is no language barrier and the culture of the UK is very close to the American way of life; London and other major cities in the UK offer a ‘home from home’ as well as the chance to visit a few tourist destinations or countryside locations, either before your treatment, or as you recover.

UK healthcare costs in both UK private sector, and in NHS hospitals who offer private care, are surprisingly competitive.

Example private UK healthcare costs

[1][2] For all forms of private treatment, the UK healthcare costs compare well to prices in hospitals in India, Thailand, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan.

Knee and hip replacement surgery costs

Surgery for joint problems – such as hip replacement operations and knee replacement surgery are expensive in the US but UK healthcare costs for private international patients are often significantly lower:

  • A US hip replacement will set you back $33 000 to $57 000.
  • In the UK you can expect your medical bills for a hip replacement to be £7000 to £8900, which equates to $9300 to $13900.
  • A US knee replacement costs between $30 000 and $53 000.
  • For a knee replacement you can expect to pay £8 000 to £10 300 ($12500 - $16 000).
  • As a comparison, hip replacements in Thailand start at around $12700, with knee replacements costing around $11500.

With return flights easily under $1000 per person from New York and a good choice of affordable accommodation in the UK, you can still make a significant saving even after paying all your travel bills and out-of-hospital accommodation for you and a partner.

Prostate surgery costs (TURP)

  • In the US, prostate surgery costs, for trans urethral resection of the prostate (TURP) are between $10 000 and $16 000.
  • In the UK you can expect to pay £3650 to £4650 at one of the Spire Healthcare Hospitals – this converts to $5700 to $7500

Weight loss surgery costs

  • In the US, gastric bypass surgery costs around $35000 to £52000.
  • In the UK, the same operation starts at around £10000, which is approximately $16 000 – about the same as in Singapore.

Fertility treatment costs – in vitro fertilization (IVF)

  • In the USA, a single round of IVF treatment starts at around $12500.
  • In the UK a single treatment cycle of IVF costs from £3000 ($4700).


Private UK healthcare costs for cancer treatment

It is possible for people from the USA to come to the UK for cancer treatment but it is more difficult to estimate the costs that will be involved. Some people who have no health insurance to cover their treatment in the USA still find it cost effective to travel to the UK several times for different treatments, including surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. It is important, however, that you have realistic expectations of the cost of each part of your treatment, getting a fairly accurate and detailed quote for each stage.

Private UK healthcare costs – what they include

When you are planning your visit to the UK as a medical tourist, you need to obtain accurate and detailed quotes from several different private hospitals and NHS hospitals. You may be able to get the same treatment at a lower price outside London, for example, but you will need to take account of any additional travel costs. You need to make sure that your quote for UK healthcare costs covers all of the pre-treatment tests, necessary drugs and after care, as well as the main procedure.

[1] Woodman J Patients Beyond Borders: Everybody's Guide to Affordable, World-Class Medical Tourism 2007 Healthy Travel Media ISBN-10: 0979107903 ISBN-13: 978-0979107900

[2] Private Healthcare UK What does it cost? http://www.privatehealth.co.uk/hospitaltreatment/whatdoesitcost/  Last accessed 11 January 2011