We in the UK are very fortunate to have most of our healthcare free at the point of delivery. Certain services such as Opticians and Dentists also carry a financial contribution component but this is usually relatively small compared with the full private fees. Even for Dentists and Optician’s some people still choose to access their care privately – why is this?
Most often the decision is driven by ease of access, range of choice and level of service on offer. Why can this be different? You might be surprised to realise it is not always about the money. Let’s examine the reasons:
Ease of Access
NHS services have to be able to manage clinics for vastly greater numbers of patients compared to the private sector. This creates significant time pressures both for the appointment lengths available and when and where the appointments can be held. For example, an NHS Audiology departments’ primary responsibility is often to support Ear, Nose and Throat Consultants’ clinic, conducting hearing and balance and paediatric assessments as required. Their hearing aid clinics usually need to be fitted around this demand. Appointment times often need to be limited to enable waiting times to be reasonably short for all patients leading to quite a process-driven approach rather than patient centred care.
Contrast this with private care where patient numbers are often far smaller and the booking times are under control of either the clinic or your clinician themselves. There is a much greater opportunity for flexibility, out of hours working and home visits enabling the clinic to focus on your access needs rather than the needs of the service.
Range of Choice
Your Dentist will provide a safe and effective amalgam filling on the NHS, but offer a more cosmetically pleasing white filling privately. Optician’s can offer bifocals for £100 or varifocals in designer frames for £1,000. In most NHS services there will be a focus on usually only one manufacturer and only one style of hearing aid – behind the ear. While this may well work for the majority of patients those who don’t get on with that particular manufacturers sound or that style of hearing aid are often stuck.
When you choose a private hearing aid you get freedom to select whatever style you like:
- Invisible in the ear for maximum discretion
- Full shell for ease of insertion
- Receiver in the ear for maximum performance and connectivity
- Behind the Ear for severe or profound hearing loss
You are also able to choose from any hearing aid manufacturer. To a new customer this may feel like a slightly arbitrary option, i.e. what’s the difference between say Phonak and Oticon hearing aids and why would you care? But there are significant differences in the philosophy and strategy of sound and signal processing between brands of hearing aids which can make a huge difference to the benefit you receive from your hearing aids. And there also technologies that some manufacturers have that others don’t such as Phonak’s Marvel 2.0 and Roger Direct remote microphones. Incredibly useful for some people but of limited benefit to others.
Level of Service
Clinician’s whether NHS or private always want to offer the best service to their patients. The expectation of the patient is that they should always receive the best service to meet their needs. Unfortunately constraints in funding, choice, staff availability and time can often lead to these expectations not being fully met. Within the NHS these constraints are often applied by local authority funding decisions or management priorities within the hospital, limiting the clinicians’ and patients’ treatment options.
Privately patients’ and clinicians are free to work together to make sure a client’s needs are as fully met as possible with the focus on patient, rather than service priorities. This can mean for example that rather than simply being provided with a hearing aid that can only do so much you are offered a hearing system. This might include hearing aids of your choice alongside an easy to use remote control. Direct connection to your mobile phone or landline for effortless calls and direct streaming of your television into your hearing aids to significantly improve clarity.
As a healthcare provider we often encourage our patients to try the NHS option first to see if it is right for them. For a great many people it meets their identified needs very well. Where this is not the case we are very proud of our ‘Try before you buy’ trial programme that lets people hear the difference private can make to them. Even once you have made your decision to buy and have been supplied with your hearing aids you still have 60 days to make sure they are the right ones for you. This gives you the flexibility to change to different devices within this period or even have a full refund if you need to.
Why not book in now to hear the difference we can make to your life?