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DTMark

Private Health Care

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My father has been recently diagnosed with cancer. Among other reactions, this finally saw me set about looking at private health care since the NHS has arguably assisted with the demise of one member of our family already though horrendous misdiagnosis.

So I pull up the Bupa website and find that I can get their top package for just shy of £100 a month. The top cancer care package, London clinics and so on. Sounds good. So I have a look at the details of the package and what it covers, rather enthusiastic at this stage.

Now either I've seen too much American TV and a stylised view of private medical care, or I'm just not "getting it".

As I read it, I might as well pull out £100 from the cashpoint each month and set fire to it for all the practical difference that it makes.

By way of an example:

If I had possible symptoms of cancer, I'd go to see the private GP that I am registered with six miles away in Farnham. That would result in an immediate referral to a Bupa hospital. Within a few hours, I'd have had an x-ray and MRI scan. Later that day I'd be with the consultant discussing the results.

That evening, the biopsy, and the course of action - whether surgery, or radiotherapy and chemo - would commence that day or maybe the next day with regular meetings with my consultant.

That's not how it reads to me. In fact I can't really see what Bupa is "for".

For a start, the consultation with the GP would still cost the normal £128. There's no discount or special dispensation for membership. NB I won't see an NHS GP because of privacy concerns.

There's nothing to indicate that I wouldn't simply end up in NHS care. It might just be that I might have access to the latest drugs if... and... and... and...

I'm just not seeing the point of this. My suspicion is that for real health care, I need to spend a lot more money than that on a personal style service with London based clinics (e.g the sort of care I imagine that celebrity money or royalty can buy).

Does anyone have Bupa care? An opinion on this? Is it one great big waste of money?

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My father has been recently diagnosed with cancer.

By the NHS?

Don't wait for NHS treatment. They'll promise it, then string him along month after month until it's inoperable. Not nice for anyone. Go private (or go abroad) straight away for timely treatment to give him his best chance.

As for BUPA and health insurance, I can't comment. I don't have it myself, and the value isn't clear.

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By the NHS?

Don't wait for NHS treatment. They'll promise it, then string him along month after month until it's inoperable. Not nice for anyone. Go private (or go abroad) straight away for timely treatment to give him his best chance.

Yes. Though I'd say it's fairly unmistakeable. Initial referral by GP, admitted to hospital that day, x-ray on day one, MRI day two, held for another two days for biopsy in appalling conditions (insufferably hot, filthy dirty hospital - Princess Alexandra in Harlow, Essex), then released as free to go awaiting course of chemo/radiotherapy.

Two days later, appointment with GP, referral to specialist to have the required biopsy the hospital were supposed to do before treatment can proceed. Probably to be followed by several weeks' wait for referral to get the treatment..

As I recall the staff were fairly busy with the racist drug addict threatening to kick their heads in, I came damn close to intervening and pushing her out of the ward and locking the door after she called the Chinese nurse - well, you can imagine - she can bleed to death in the car park for all I care, she wanted to leave anyway. Much better for everyone concerned.

I'm off to Google "Harley Street private medical care".

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I tried to get an appointment with my gp on Tuesday. Telephone was solidly engaged from 8am, so I walked over to the surgery. Was told that all the appointments were taken for that day and i'd have to have another go on the phone tomorrow. Pre-booked appointments were available but all those for March had already been taken, although It was only the 3rd of the month. If I was "in urgent need", I could get a gp emergency call-back.

I said I might as well go wait in the hospital A&E.

A month's wait to see a poxy gp, unless you're dying.

All I wanted was a prescription, due to nothing useful being available over the counter in nanny UK.

What a joke.

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I tried to get an appointment with my gp on Tuesday. Telephone was solidly engaged from 8am, so I walked over to the surgery. Was told that all the appointments were taken for that day and i'd have to have another go on the phone tomorrow. Pre-booked appointments were available but all those for March had already been taken, although It was only the 3rd of the month. If I was "in urgent need", I could get a gp emergency call-back.

I said I might as well go wait in the hospital A&E.

A month's wait to see a poxy gp, unless you're dying.

All I wanted was a prescription.

What a joke.

http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/self-pay-treatments/gp-services

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My brief research turns up a number of small private highly specialised clinics in Harley Street and what seems to be an overarching portal type website which is fairly generalised. Access to professionals seems largely driven by Bupa membership or similar. But then whether or not you get that access is at the whim of Bupa's Terms and Conditions.

I am guessing that specialists in some of the key areas are few and far between. And yet, the treatment costs aren't exactly astronomical. Yes, for most things, they're in the thousands, but that isn't a lot of money considering what's at stake. I'd have thought that most people could afford, or more likely be able to finance, such things.

What I cannot find is a sort of "private top class pay monthly Bupa style service" of any kind. It seems that you wait until you get a particular condition and then pay "on demand" for consultations and treatment. I think that what I am looking for - for me - doesn't really exist. However what my father needs does indeed exist and can be arranged.

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I tried to get an appointment with my gp on Tuesday. Telephone was solidly engaged from 8am, so I walked over to the surgery. Was told that all the appointments were taken for that day and i'd have to have another go on the phone tomorrow. Pre-booked appointments were available but all those for March had already been taken, although It was only the 3rd of the month. If I was "in urgent need", I could get a gp emergency call-back.

I said I might as well go wait in the hospital A&E.

A month's wait to see a poxy gp, unless you're dying.

All I wanted was a prescription, due to nothing useful being available over the counter in nanny UK.

What a joke.

I got a GP appointment in just three or four days earlier this year.

That's a huge improvement on the one time in my life I've had a truly urgent need, and it was going to be more than two weeks. That was autumn 2007, before anyone was talking "austerity".

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I am guessing that specialists in some of the key areas are few and far between. And yet, the treatment costs aren't exactly astronomical. Yes, for most things, they're in the thousands, but that isn't a lot of money considering what's at stake. I'd have thought that most people could afford, or more likely be able to finance, such things.

FWIW, I contributed £15k when a family member needed a cancer operation a year and a half ago. Peanuts compared to what the NHS costs.

The tragedy is, she'd been expecting NHS treatment. Her operation had been just about to happen ("week after next" timescale) for over four months before we got wise to the game. That gave the cancer time to spread to the brain, where it couldn't be operated.

That £15k would've been well worth it if that vacuous NHS promise hadn't delayed the treatment. Don't let it happen to your dad!

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FWIW, I contributed £15k when a family member needed a cancer operation a year and a half ago. Peanuts compared to what the NHS costs.

The tragedy is, she'd been expecting NHS treatment. Her operation had been just about to happen ("week after next" timescale) for over four months before we got wise to the game. That gave the cancer time to spread to the brain, where it couldn't be operated.

That £15k would've been well worth it if that vacuous NHS promise hadn't delayed the treatment. Don't let it happen to your dad!

Thank you for sharing.

I agree. I really do wonder what the NHS is for and why we have it, and why we prize it so highly.

The five year survival rate for this, if I interpret the stage of diagnosis correctly, is about 19%.

At the next stage, that drops to about 8%. So time is certainly of the essence.

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Thank you for sharing.

I agree. I really do wonder what the NHS is for and why we have it, and why we prize it so highly.

The five year survival rate for this, if I interpret the stage of diagnosis correctly, is about 19%.

At the next stage, that drops to about 8%. So time is certainly of the essence.

Those numbers are not encouraging. Have you checked comparable rates in other countries? If anyone has substantially better figures, can you identify what they do differently, and whether it's anything more than just getting on with the job?

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Just lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer, so my sympathies etc.

Also just had what I take to be an attack of gout. Or it could be something more serious.

So I phone last night for an appointment today.

No, none today.

They don't work weekends (of course not, that would mean people who work and pay taxes to fund them would actually be able to see a doctor).

So Monday? Fully booked.

Tuesday? 1 slot at 15:30. So I have to leave work 3 hours early to see a GP 5 days later than I actually need to see one.

The NHS is an obscenity.

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Just lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer, so my sympathies etc.

Also just had what I take to be an attack of gout. Or it could be something more serious.

So I phone last night for an appointment today.

No, none today.

They don't work weekends (of course not, that would mean people who work and pay taxes to fund them would actually be able to see a doctor).

So Monday? Fully booked.

Tuesday? 1 slot at 15:30. So I have to leave work 3 hours early to see a GP 5 days later than I actually need to see one.

The NHS is an obscenity.

coincidentally, gout is what I was trying to get a prescription for, specifically the NSAID naproxen which can stop an attack in its tracks if taken early enough; unfortunately it's prescription-only.

as it happened, i was able to borrow a packet from a friend who suffers with back problems, otherwise I'd have had to rely on ibuprofen which isn't quite as effective.

treating a gout attack early can be the difference between a day or 2 of discomfort and a week or more of agony and disablement.

a couple of questions:

a/ why is a fairly innocuous drug like naproxen prescription-only? when you can buy it over the counter in almost any other country.

b/ why do we have to negotiate a Kafkaesque obstacle course to simply get a prompt prescription? surely pharmacists should be given leeway to provide certain drugs in urgent need, eg. painkillers.

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Sorry to hear about your father. I hope for the best. I can't tell you much about private healthcare other than it's considerably less unenjoyable than NHS and seems to have far more resources directed towards the patient.

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I'm an NHS hospital doctor. In my view most people don't love the NHS, but they do fear being without it.

To the OP: sorry to hear to hear about your father.


Now either I've seen too much American TV and a stylised view of private medical care, or I'm just not "getting it".

Private healthcare in the UK is completely different from the US. The UK private healthcare model focuses on offering treatments that are relatively cheap to provide, such as day-surgery hernia repairs, and tends to leave coverage of more expensive long-term conditions to the NHS. Also private healthcare tends to leave the NHS to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

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I'm an NHS hospital doctor. In my view most people don't love the NHS, but they do fear being without it.

To the OP: sorry to hear to hear about your father.

Private healthcare in the UK is completely different from the US. The UK private healthcare model focuses on offering treatments that are relatively cheap to provide, such as day-surgery hernia repairs, and tends to leave coverage of more expensive long-term conditions to the NHS. Also private healthcare tends to leave the NHS to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

Who said anything about the US system? Oh right, american TV.

Your characterisation of the UK system is a soundbite I've heard before. I don't know how much truth there is in it, but I suspect it originates with some anti-private-healthcare Agenda who are perhaps highlighting the worst as the norm.

If you're an NHS hospital doctor then you obviously know a lot more about the NHS than most of us. But that's from the point of view of an insider, and the patients you deal with are those who have won the lottery to get past the gatekeepers to see a hospital doctor in the first place, and (having done so) haven't become so mired in red tape as to die on your waiting list. That is inherently the sample whose experience of the NHS in their hour of need is the best.

However, a system that promises treatment but then pushes it back week after week, month after month, until the patient cannot be treated, is quite clearly worse than useless. It would be far more honest just to say "go private/go abroad or die" in the first place. If the NHS had had that basic level of honesty, my relative might still be alive.

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I think the important bit is on the wait...you might get lucky, you might not. I've only needed urgent surgery once as a kid...luckily dad had BUPA or similar (cant remember, was the 80s) as part of his job and I was fixed up quickly instead of potentially being in a wheelchair the rest of my life waiting for the NHS to find time to fit me in (didnt help that three NHS quacks misdiagnosed me over a year long period)

OTOH, my gran went private a few years back and the quality was atrocious (this down in surrey), meanwhile another grandparent went with the NHS and it was fantastic (norwich)

Its a lottery, nothing more, nothing less. Of course see what the NHS can offer him, but if surgery gets moved back without much warning, do consider going private.

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I just re-read what I wrote about that mad woman in the ward and reflected on that. It's a bit scary really; the way in which I've jumped to a conclusion (drug addict) out of pure anger which I had in that moment. I'm normally more controlled than that.

The NHS appears to be obliged to treat her. The idea of socialised health care for all free at the point of delivery is a lovely one, but I have never been convinced that this is the right answer or that the NHS can ever, realistically, be what we want it to be.

On the same night, the ambulance driver had been smacked round the head with a ladder on a previous call out. I see some remarkable people working in some piteous conditions.

I am still angry about how disgustingly dirty the hospital was - the toilet that stinks to high heaven of bleach yet there's encrusted s*** on the wall, all the corners of everywhere being thick black with dirt, the lift that had clearly been wiped down with a dirty rag and so on. Wasn't there that thing called MRSA... anyway.

He has a tumour at the top of his left lung in one location. The consultant may well have ruled out surgery on the basis of his age perhaps - I wasn't present at the conversation but I'd have thought that the question "is surgery out of the question?" would be a fair one. As I understand it such surgery is life threatening and he is 72 so that has to be balanced.

The consultant's view is that it should respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy and that a recovery is possible. However I am realistic about this; it's surely necessary to provide the patient with the hope to have a positive mental attitude.

His biopsy is to be performed in Euston early next week. As I understand it, that identifies the specific "type" of tumour so as to target it. The question is then - how long before treatment starts. Will know more soon.

For myself, I suspect the best answer is to keep a credit card or two with a nil balance and some cash stashed away for the possible future event. I was the one that mentioned the US system and wondered whether this is stylised or real and how good it really is.

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Private healthcare in the UK is completely different from the US. The UK private healthcare model focuses on offering treatments that are relatively cheap to provide, such as day-surgery hernia repairs, and tends to leave coverage of more expensive long-term conditions to the NHS. Also private healthcare tends to leave the NHS to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

Thank you for responding.

When I was looking into this, I can see a number of Harley Street consultancies with price lists, and those price lists do tally rather closely in content with exactly what you say.

I found only one (doesn't mean there is only one, but that's the only one that I saw) which specialises in cancer and has the necessary equipment to carry out the radiotherapy procedure.

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He has a tumour at the top of his left lung in one location. The consultant may well have ruled out surgery on the basis of his age perhaps - I wasn't present at the conversation but I'd have thought that the question "is surgery out of the question?" would be a fair one. As I understand it such surgery is life threatening and he is 72 so that has to be balanced.

That sounds like a somewhat similar case to my relative, who was of a similar age. Only the verdict was that surgery would be best. That was based on her being - apart from the cancer - healthy and in good shape: obviously I've no idea if that applies to your dad. If she'd had other health issues they wouldn't've suggested operating.

The killer was the forever delays to the operation.

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That sounds like a somewhat similar case to my relative, who was of a similar age. Only the verdict was that surgery would be best. That was based on her being - apart from the cancer - healthy and in good shape: obviously I've no idea if that applies to your dad. If she'd had other health issues they wouldn't've suggested operating.

The killer was the forever delays to the operation.

I would like to get a second opinion (as regards surgery). I'm not sure how to go about that, though.

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Your characterisation of the UK system is a soundbite I've heard before. I don't know how much truth there is in it, but I suspect it originates with some anti-private-healthcare Agenda who are perhaps highlighting the worst as the norm.

The best way to find out is to read the small print of any private healthcare contract, as the OP has done, and pay particular attention to what circumstances are excluded.

If you're an NHS hospital doctor then you obviously know a lot more about the NHS than most of us. But that's from the point of view of an insider, and the patients you deal with are those who have won the lottery to get past the gatekeepers to see a hospital doctor in the first place, and (having done so) haven't become so mired in red tape as to die on your waiting list. That is inherently the sample whose experience of the NHS in their hour of need is the best.

However, a system that promises treatment but then pushes it back week after week, month after month, until the patient cannot be treated, is quite clearly worse than useless. It would be far more honest just to say "go private/go abroad or die" in the first place. If the NHS had had that basic level of honesty, my relative might still be alive.

I'm not blind to the faults of the NHS (personally I've suffered serious harm twice in my life through NHS incompetence) and I won't attempt to defend the indefensible. I'm not even sure that the NHS can be fixed. What I am sure of is that the current model of private healthcare provision in the UK is deliberately not intended to offer a complete replacement to the NHS.

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The best way to find out is to read the small print of any private healthcare contract, as the OP has done, and pay particular attention to what circumstances are excluded.

I'm not blind to the faults of the NHS (personally I've suffered serious harm twice in my life through NHS incompetence) and I won't attempt to defend the indefensible. I'm not even sure that the NHS can be fixed. What I am sure of is that the current model of private healthcare provision in the UK is deliberately not intended to offer a complete replacement to the NHS.

Aha! When you say "private healthcare contract", can I take it you really mean insurance schemes like BUPA? You'll see in my first post in this thread that I have nothing to say about those.

I was talking about going private on a case-by-case basis, such as the OP's father, to escape the NHS bureaucracy and empty promises when time is critical!

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Aha! When you say "private healthcare contract", can I take it you really mean insurance schemes like BUPA? You'll see in my first post in this thread that I have nothing to say about those.

I was talking about going private on a case-by-case basis, such as the OP's father, to escape the NHS bureaucracy and empty promises when time is critical!

Oh, I see. We're talking about different things.

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I suspect that I was the one who mixed/blurred the two things.

Will is quite right. Using my father's situation as an example I set out what I had thought private health care consisted of. A sort of parallel option which does what the NHS does.

And on reading the documents very carefully, that is a long way from what Bupa is offering. My best interpretation of the offer is - you might get to jump the queue. If we agree. If what you have qualifies. Maybe. Or maybe not.

In my father's current situation porca is right - I'm looking at the options to simply pay for the treatment outright to speed things along even though my father paid his NI contributions throughout his working life. Such options do exist.

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