What is Private Healthcare

Most people in the UK receive their healthcare free at the point of delivery through the NHS. Those individuals who may never have been involved with health insurance of with the private health sector may ask what is private healthcare? Private healthcare is not a single entity, but simply put private healthcare is the provision of certain health services largely outside of the NHS that an individual or their company pays a monthly premium for certain healthcare cover when they need it.

What is Private Healthcare

Private Healthcare in Many Forms

When you ask what is private healthcare?, it is not easy to describe in detail. Private healthcare consists of private hospitals and clinics offering treatment that is paid for either in cash, or more generally though healthcare insurance. Private healthcare is not restricted to the private sector as over the last twenty five years or so, the NHS has paid for a growing number of operations and services through the private sector. Some of these purchases were brought in an attempt to cut NHS waiting lists for certain procedures. Originally private healthcare was used to supplement what the NHS provided but this has changed over the years and a good deal of private healthcare systems offer alternatives to almost all NHS provision.


When you try and answer the question of what is private healthcare collaboration between the private sector and the NHS has to be taken into consideration. Procedures such as alternative health therapies and physiotherapy are largely outsourced to the private sector. An increasing amount of the long term residential care of people with learning disabilities is now part of the private sector, as is a good deal of care for the elderly. While there is still some provision in the NHS for dental treatment, a large proportion of treatments are only available as private healthcare options. Optical care is mostly private although the NHS pays for some people's eye tests and may make a contribution towards the cost of new glasses. If the coalition government has their way, private healthcare providers will be dealing with more NHS operations and even outpatients appointments.

Health Insurance

Most people who ask the question what is private healthcare, often don't realise that companies and individuals pay a monthly or an annual premium to cover any eventual medical treatment they might need. Private healthcare may include dental and optical care as well as treatment for acute conditions. Some people who have most of their treatment under the NHS may have sufficient health insurance to prevent them having to wait a long time for an initial consultation as that can be paid for through their private healthcare insurance.

No Guarantee

Private healthcare is not a guarantee that you will be covered for every eventuality, most people's healthcare plans cover certain procedures and a short stay and treatment in hospital. Not all private healthcare providers cover outpatient appointments and most will not provide cover for chronic conditions such as arthritis. Private healthcare varies from one company to another and is determined by the extent of the cover that your policy allows.

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