Hip Replacement Surgery: Should You Stick With the NHS, or go Private?
The Covid pandemic has had and continues to have a dramatic impact on all aspects of our lives. Here in the UK, our NHS health system has experienced unprecedented demand and the associated pressure as a result of this. This has meant that the system many of us took for granted, has changed. In light of these changes, it is unsurprising that many people waiting for NHS hip replacement surgery are exploring other options.
Waiting times for many procedures have stretched to previously unseen lengths, leaving many people facing uncertain months of crippling pain and despair. As the country is now trying to get back towards normality, thousands of people’s health and well-being have taken many steps backward, as a result of conditions continuing to go untreated.
With the daunting prospect of a lengthy wait for treatment, some people are considering other options.
NHS Hip Replacement Surgery
We are huge fans of the National Health Service and feel privileged to know that it is there for us, no matter what. But Covid has turned the world upside down and placed an ever increasing burden on our beloved NHS.
Could one way to ease this burden be to pay to have private treatment? Many might say that they have paid into the NHS and don’t want to lose their entitlement to free treatment. But you would never lose your entitlement to free NHS services by choosing to have an elective procedure at this time.
Some people aren’t happy about appearing to “jump the queue” by paying for private treatment. But in doing so, you just might be freeing up a space for someone else.
The private healthcare system never competes with the NHS, rather it complements it and works hand in hand with it.
You may actually be reducing the strain on the NHS freeing it up to deal with emergencies and life saving treatments.
How Long is the Waiting List on the NHS?
Before the Pandemic, the NHS had a target waiting time of up to 18 weeks for hip replacement surgery. Currently however, many people are actually waiting more than 52 weeks. This has resulted in the prospect of many additional months or even years of suffering for those waiting for hip replacement surgery.
According to figures from The Health Foundation the NHS in England typically carries out 330 elective hip replacements a day. This fell to an average of between 1 and 2 a day at the start of the pandemic and in 2020 as a whole 58,000 fewer people than usual had a hip replacement.
People who are affected describe feelings of frustration, distress and anger and also cite the lack of information and communication from the hospitals. The problem is acerbated by people who previously delayed seeking help during the pandemic now coming forward.
According to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, figures in April 2021 show the scale of the problem –
- 4.7 million people waiting for hospital treatment
- 387,885 waiting for more than 52 weeks
- Just 1,643 people waiting for more than 52 weeks in February 2020 before the pandemic
- The 18 week maximum target for treatment hasn’t been met for 5 years
Mr Tim Mitchell, Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said:
“The NHS had a brutal start to the year because of the second wave of COVID-19 and this is reflected in today’s figures.
“Although the most urgent operations, for cancer and life-threatening conditions, went ahead, hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for routine surgery such as hip and knee operations, cochlear implants and vascular operations had their treatment cancelled or postponed.”
Bearing all these factors in mind, many people are looking into the possibility of paying for private hip replacement surgery.
What are the Benefits of Private Hip Replacement Surgery?
The greatest benefit of having private hip replacement surgery is the reduced waiting time to alleviate your hip pain and restore your mobility. Other benefits also include having a greater choice and flexibility, continuity of treatment, increased comfort and access to the latest technology.
Let’s explore these in more detail:
- Reduced waiting times: This is the greatest benefit as the deterioration of your health prior to the surgery, can have a huge impact on the resulting outcome. Although private healthcare is becoming increasingly popular, and waiting times are becoming longer, it’s unlikely that the private sector will ever experience the same pressure as the NHS. As a result, you can anticipate a greatly reduced waiting time, which is advantageous if you’re experiencing a lot of pain with your hip and want to address the problem sooner rather than later.
- Greater choice: Of course, one of the most significant advantages of private hip replacement surgery is that you are entitled to ‘shop around’ in order to find the right medical establishment for your operation. You can also find out which surgeons come highly recommended and which operate in your local area.
- Continuity of treatment: The consultant that you choose will see you from start to finish and oversee all aspects of your treatment. The consultant himself, rather than one of his team, will perform your operation.
- Custom fit implants and access to the latest technology where appropriate: The ultimate decision regarding which method and which prosthesis is best for you, will come after a detailed consultation with your surgeon who will make the decision based on your individual diagnosis and needs.
What are the Different Types of Hip Replacement in the UK?
Total hip replacement or hip arthroplasty is the most common type of hip replacement in the UK. Partial hip replacement and hip resurfacing are alternative procedures. The replacement parts or prostheses are generally made of metal, plastic or ceramic, or a combination of these materials.
For more detailed information, read our earlier article……….Types of Hip Replacement in the UK
How much does a hip replacement cost?
The cost of private hip replacement surgery in the UK is in the region of £9,025 to £15,500 depending on the area you live in, the individual surgeon and the type of surgery you need.
How can I pay for hip surgery?
Private hip surgery can be funded in a variety of ways. The major private healthcare providers such as Spire Healthcare, BMI Healthcare (now Circle Health), Nuffield Health and Ramsay Health offer packages including no deposit and interest free periods.
Hip Replacement Self Pay Packages
Practice Plus Group
|Scheme Name||Self Pay||Paying for Yourself||Nuffield PricePromise||HCA Self Pay||TotalCare||Self Pay|
|First consultation included?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Initial outpatient diagnostic services?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Pre-admission assessments and tests?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|All hospital charges from admission to discharge?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Surgeon and anaesthetist fees included?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cost of prosthesis included?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Post operative consultation?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cost of take home drugs included?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Post-operative care?||Clinically necessary follow- up physiotherapy, radiology and pathology||Yes. Up to 6 months aftercare, based on Consultant advice||Yes. No time limits if clinically required||Not included||Unlimited Aftercare||Yes|
|Re-admission, if required?||Up to 12 months, for clinically-related reasons||Up to 6 months, for clinically-related reasons||Yes, if arising from the original procedure||No extra charge should complications develop||Not stated||Yes, if arising from the original procedure|
|Finance available?||10 months 0% interest free, with Zebra Health Finance||12 months 0% interest free with the BMI Card||10 months 0% interest free, with Zebra Health Finance||12 months 0% interest free, with Chrysalis Finance||10 months 0% interest free, with Zebra Health Finance||12 months 0% interest free, with Chrysalis Finance|
|Cancellation Policy?||Not stated||Not stated||Minimum of 14 working days’ notice – full refund||Minimum of 3 working days’ notice – full refund||Not stated||Minimum of 5 working days’ notice – full refund|
|Hip replacement Cost||£9,400 to £15,050||£11,263 to £14,269||£10,275 to £15,625||£14,050||£10,761 to £14,000||£9,570|
All details and prices are correct at time of printing but are subject to change.
Private Health Insurance is also an option and although this may not cover existing conditions, may be something to consider to guard against future health issues.
The decision to pay for your own private treatment is a serious one but many people feel that their continuing pain and deteriorating health are worthy of making the investment.
People have described the decision to pay for surgery as “Life changing”, “Opening up a new life” and “Money well spent.”
What will the operation involve?
The hip replacement operation will involve the removal of portions of the pelvis and femur (thigh bone) and the replacement with plastic, metal or ceramic parts or prostheses. The surgery will take about one and a half hours and you will usually stay in hospital for one or two days after the procedure.
How long does it take to recover from hip surgery?
Everyone recovers differently but the majority of people who undergo hip replacement surgery are able to return to light activities and regain full independence within around 6 weeks.
What are the Possible Risks and Complications?
Whilst hip replacement surgery has excellent success rates, there are still risks involved. The main risks and complications include blood clots, infection, fracture, unequal leg length, dislocation, limping, bleeding and damage to the blood vessels or nerves surrounding the site of the surgery.
Let us look at these risks in more detail:
- Blood clots. As an invasive procedure, there are always risks but these can often be treated with blood-thinning medications. A new study shows that aspirin is effective in preventing blood clots after hip replacement surgery. You will be encouraged to move soon after your surgery to minimise the risk of blood clots and compression stockings can also help.
- Infection. Most infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
- Fracture. Sometimes, healthy sections of your hip joint may fracture as a result of surgery. In most cases, the bone will heal by itself. However, there are occasions where the fracture needs to be corrected which may involve further surgery.
- Unequal leg length. Again, this is rare, but can happen. If one leg is shorter than the other after surgery, this is normally a result of weakened muscles surrounding the joint. The problem can normally be resolved with physiotherapy treatment to help strengthen the muscles over time.
- Dislocation. Dislocating the ball of the new hip joint is always a risk, especially soon after the procedure. Normally, your surgeon will recommend steps you can take to avoid this, such as not bending more than 90 degrees from your hip and not crossing your legs too ‘high’. Dislocation can normally be resolved by wearing a brace. However, if it keeps occurring, you may need further surgery to correct it.
- Limping. Some patients are left with a limp after the operation. This is normally due to weakened muscles and can generally be corrected with muscle strengthening exercises.
- Loosening. This is rare in newer implants but surgery may be needed if the implant becomes loose over time.
- Continued pain. As previously mentioned, the vast majority of patients’ pain is greatly reduced, or even eradicated entirely. However, for a small proportion, the operation will not make a difference, or may even make the pain worse.
- Nerve damage. This is rare but can cause numbness, weakness and pain in the area where the implant is placed.
Making a Decision
Before making a decision, it’s important to be aware that hip replacement surgery is considered one of the most successful operations in the UK, in terms of both low mortality rates and positive results. This applies to NHS hip replacement as well as those performed by private healthcare organisations.
Before deciding, talk to your GP about your options. Also, take the time to discuss the matter with other people who have already had the operation; ask them about their experiences and what they would recommend. In short, it’s worth doing your research, to ensure you’re properly informed and armed with the right facts before making any final decision.
Hip Replacement FAQs
- You have chronic pain and stiffness
- Painkillers, injections and physical therapies fail to provide relief
- Everyday tasks are difficult
- Your pain is making you depressed and affecting your mental wellbeing
- Tests reveal advanced arthritis or joint damage
- Alternative therapies have not helped
If you have severe hip pain or stiffness that is not relieved by medication and that makes it difficult to walk or interferes with your work, sleep or daily life, you should consider a hip replacement.
Although a hip replacement is a major operation, it has been shown to be safe and have huge benefits and successful outcomes in relieving pain and restoring mobility. However it should only be considered when other treatments have not helped to improve mobility and reduce pain.
A modern, artificial hip joint is designed to last for at least 15 years. Indeed, new materials, more advanced technical procedures and new knowledge, would suggest that this figure will be even longer in the future.
- Don’t cross your legs at the knees for 6 to 8 weeks after your surgery
- While sitting down, don’t lean forward or try to pick up something from the floor
- Don’t raise your knee higher than your hip
- When bending down, don’t turn your feet inward or outward too much
- Don’t bend too much from the waist
The longer you wait, the less effective the surgery may be. As your joint deteriorates, your mobility will decrease, you may put on weight and you may develop cardiovascular problems. The less healthy you are, the worse the surgical outcome tends to be.
It should be safe to resume driving four to six weeks after your hip replacement operation. Ideally, you should be off any pain relief medication and you should be fully fit and be able to control the car and the pedals safely. You should be able to perform an emergency stop. Ease yourself back into driving by gradually increasing the time spent at the wheel and the journey time.