Going Private

Affordability of private healthcare

We also gave people some information about the costs of different appointments and treatments to see if that made any difference to whether they thought they could afford it. The responses differed depending on the total cost.

For example, for a GP appointment costing between £40 and £200, a total of 36% of people who thought they could not afford private healthcare said that they could find a way to pay for it (1%) or could probably or definitely afford it (20%).

For a cataract operation (£2,000 to £4,000) that proportion dropped to 12%, and for a hip replacement (£9,000 to £15,000) it dropped to 4%.

From this we conclude that better information and transparency around price (especially for lower cost appointments and treatments) would help tackle perceived affordability barriers to people using private healthcare. Nevertheless, those barriers remain – especially for those with lower household incomes.

It may be interesting to explore further whether options to spread the cost of treatment might also encourage people to think about private healthcare, having previously assumed they could not afford it, although there has been recent concern raised about the danger of patients taking on unaffordable levels of debt to finance private healthcare.

“I would definitely be more inclined to [use private healthcare] if it was a one-off operation and you could spread the cost.

Middle-aged man, North of England

People told us that they would consider cutting back on expenditure in other areas of their lives so that they could pay for private treatment.

This again indicates that better information about the costs of private treatment might mean that people who had assumed they could not afford it would make a different choice.

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