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Individual health insurance

The network that only private patients can access

When you take out individual health insurance you gain access to a huge network of hospitals and specialists in the private sector, most of which boast state-of-the-art equipment and rooms that are more like hotel rooms than hospital wards. BUPA alone employs 40,000 staff in the UK.

Individual health insurance gives you access to a huge network of hospitals, treatment centres and other facilities in the private sector: BUPA alone has 35 hospitals (and has agreements with 160 in total), 34 health screening centres, 245 care homes and 54 retirement homes; the firm employs 40,000 people in the UK and a further 1,500 abroad. Other firms have their own networks: for example, Nuffield Hospitals has 44 hospitals.

One of the key reasons to consider individual health insurance is that these facilities run at much lower occupancy rates than NHS facilities: where NHS hospitals run at nearly 100% occupancy, private facilities usually run at 50 or 60%. That means you don't have to join a waiting list for treatment or to see a specialist, whereas in the NHS even routine treatments can have waiting lists of several months.