Is Private Medical Insurance Worth It?

By Vicki Coleman

With NHS waiting times at a record high, there’s probably never been a stronger argument to consider private medical insurance (PMI).

The latest data shows that nearly 40% of NHS hospital departments in England have average treatment waiting times above 18 weeks (the NHS target) – with average waits at some well over 30 weeks[1].

By the time you’re reading this, waiting times could be even longer.

Getting treated in a timely fashion on the NHS is something of a pipedream for most patients. There are a whole host of reasons for this – and this is not the time or place to go into them – but you’re well within your right to expect to be seen when you need to be seen.

PMI is a legitimate way to jump the queue. But is it worth the annual premiums?

When might you not need PMI?

For many people, the free healthcare provided by the NHS is satisfactory, even if it means waiting months to receive treatment.

Often it comes down to budget. If you only have spare cash for basic insurance, such as car and home insurance – and life insurance if you have dependents – you might struggle to stretch to PMI as it’s not mandatory and there is, of course, an alternative in the shape of the NHS.

While PMI often isn’t as expensive as you think, if you have debts to repay and very little or no savings to your name, you might want to put any spare cash you have towards these instead.

It’s worth remembering that you can pay to go private for individual treatments, which might prove more cost-effective than taking out PMI. In the same breath, depending on the treatment, you’re likely to have to find thousands of pounds to cover the cost of private care.

There’s no telling when you’re going to fall ill and need some kind of care. In your moment of need, are you really going to want to try and raise thousands of pounds to ensure you’re treated quickly?

What does PMI cover?

PMI comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s up to you to ensure your policy encompasses everything that you want it to.

If you just want to cover the costs of in-patient treatments – such as tests and surgery – and day-care surgery, you might be able to get away with a basic policy.

However, if you want your policy to extend to out-patient treatments – such as specialists and consultants – you will have to pay more in annual premiums.

Make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered by your proposed policy, whether there are limits on treatment costs or drug treatments used and if there’s an excess option and a no-claims discount. If you see something you don’t understand, ask one of our experts.

They’ll also be able to guide you on how to keep the costs of cover down. For example, some policies offer discounted cover that only kicks in when the NHS can’t provide the treatment you want within a certain period of time. Our experts know all the tricks of the trade to help you get the cover you need, at the best price.

What are the pros and cons of PMI?

If you’re still sitting on the fence on whether PMI is worth it, a balanced breakdown of the pros and cons of cover should be able to steer you one way or the other.


●      Specialist referrals. If you want to get a second opinion on a diagnosis, you can ask your GP to refer you to an expert or a specialist working privately.

●      Get the scans you want. If the NHS delays a scan, or refuses you one, you can seek one privately for some peace of mind.

●      Reduce the waiting time. If your wait time on the NHS is more than six weeks, you can go private and be treated sooner.

●      Choose your surgeon and hospital. You can (in theory) choose a surgeon and hospital to suit your time and place, which isn’t possible on the NHS.

●      Get a private room. You can recover in peace in your own room.

●      Specialist drugs and treatments might be available. You might have access to some treatments which aren’t available on the NHS because they’re too expensive or not yet approved by the regulator.

●      Physiotherapy. You get quicker access to physiotherapy sessions if you have insurance than you likely would through NHS treatment where the wait can extend to months (by which time your ailment might have already recovered).


●      Not everything is covered. Your healthcare insurance won’t usually cover private treatment for things like organ transplants, cosmetic surgery and normal pregnancy and childbirth costs.

●      Chronic illnesses aren’t usually covered. Most policies don’t cover chronic illnesses which are incurable, such as diabetes and some cancers.

●      Pre-existing medical conditions aren’t covered. You might be able to add them to the policy, but this is likely to push the price up.

●      There might not be any local treatment options. If you choose a policy with an approved list of consultants and hospitals, this might not include the expert consultant you want to see or a convenient location for treatment.

Generate some PMI quotes

The best way of deciding whether PMI is worth the cost of a policy is to generate some quotes and see for yourself how much your premiums would be.

Different people have different risk mindsets and health needs, and our experts are trained to match policies to individual requirements.

At QuoteSearch, we’re happy to get as many quotes that you need so that you can make your mind up. We don’t have any favourite suppliers – the quotes that you see are comprehensive and competitive.

So, don’t be shy in requesting quotes for different types of cover – that’s what our experts are paid to do!

To compare your free PMI quotes from leading providers, click here.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/aug/27/nhs-hospital-wait-times-above-18-weeks-at-a-third-of-departments