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Should you go for private healthcare or stick with the NHS?

On the face of it, deciding whether or not to sign up with a health insurance company is a simple decision: private healthcare costs money and NHS treatment doesn't. Private care also comes with lots of exclusions and limits, but the NHS has its own troubles, which private care can help you avoid.

Signing up with a health insurance company costs money while the NHS is free, but that's not the whole story. With NHS resources stretched to breaking point waiting lists are common, even for minor operations, and it isn't unusual to have to wait several weeks just to see a specialist. If you sign up with a health insurance company you can usually see a specialist in a matter of days, and long waiting lists are unheard of.

Of course, there are downsides to a health insurance company too. Existing conditions aren't covered, and neither are chronic ones - conditions that are severe, long-lasting and considered incurable. And in some cases private healthcare firms even encourage you to use the NHS, by offering cash incentives if you take NHS treatment or reduced premiums if you only go private when the NHS can't see you soon enough.