Most of us realise that the NHS is out of money with waiting times for emergency and planned care rising. You may have seen in the press recently how a variety of plans have been drawn up to limit access to knee surgery.
There are geographical areas where there is a weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) cut off where people overweight essentially get told they cant have surgery, or smokers not be allowed access to surgery. The actual rules are carefully worded and backed up by science and these are tough decisions being made at levels well above the doctors you see in the hospital about how to do the best with limited funds.
This is no consolation if you are the one being told you cant have an operation though!
Most recently there has been a real crackdown on keyhole knee surgery with both some health insurers and the NHS telling doctors which patient they can and cant operate on. This is quite infuriating as a surgeon seeing people who you are confident you can help, but getting told that the system won't fund the surgery.
Charles is seeing an increasing number of patients choosing to bypass this by self-funding, or paying for their own private care. Many people are surprised by how cost effective it is and reassured by the fixed price packages which have no hidden costs, or the schemes that local hospitals offer to spread the cost.
Certainly for self-employed people, even if the NHS will offer the surgery they need, the loss of earnings associated with waiting months for the surgery can actually mean they are better off paying to have the operation done within a matter of days then get back to work!
Locally the cost of keyhole knee surgery is £2,510 and the cost of knee replacement is about £11,000 depending on what sort of knee you need. These are the hospital fees, but they then pay the sugeon, anesthetist, physio etc so there are no hidden charges. Whilst for many of us this is out of reach, for some, it represents a sensible and appealing option with no wait, the best consultants and peace of mind that everything is covered!