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Simon Checkley: Healthcare is evolving. Self-pay offers potential to ease the UK’s healthcare burden

November 16, 2022

Living Room Health CEO Simon Checkley looks at the changing landscape of healthcare in the UK, and explains how self-pay can revolutionise access for people, and also help support the NHS.

Simon Checkley Living Room Health

What is the benefit of self-pay healthcare?

At Living Room Health we are not offering privatisation of healthcare by the back door, we’re actually giving the general public the option to walk-in and have their problem assessed and treated instantly. We’ve spent a lot of time pricing our services to make them extremely accessible, and much more affordable than the traditional routes into private healthcare. 

We’ve been inspired to create a service so that anyone who is in pain, or worried about their health, can walk-in and speak to a specialist, have the scan that they need there and then, and find peace of mind or create a treatment plan. 

“We’re saying don’t pay for private health insurance – just pay when you need to have something done.”

An MRI scan with us, for instance, starts from £250 and with two consultations included (before and after) with a senior consultant it is £345. This is around the same price that a person might pay for just one consultation with a private consultant by going through traditional private routes; and this is without any scans or follow up treatment plans so the true cost is much more. 

People don’t want to wait around for months and years for orthopaedic and unknown problems to be diagnosed. They don’t want to be in pain, and they don’t want their pain, symptoms or injury to get worse. At the same time they don’t want to clog up NHS time. We know that a considerable amount of people want to access convenient and affordable self-pay options to be seen quickly.

How is self-pay different from health insurance? 

Our clinics are open to everyone. You don’t need health insurance. We offer the option to be seen instantly by an excellent surgeon without the need to pay for health insurance, for the equivalent cost of maybe two months worth of premiums. So instead of paying month on month, year on year, worrying about something that may or may not happen, we’re saying don’t pay for private health insurance – just pay when you need to have something done.

An average private health insurance policy costs £200-£300 a month, so over the course of the year that adds up to three or four thousand pounds. If you have a sore knee, for example, and you have a health policy, you’ll be seen quite quickly by somebody who’s fairly average and your care will be fine – even though most policies exclude you from choosing the hospitals or surgeons you want. 

If you’ve had private healthcare for 10 years, you would probably have spent between £30,000 and £40,000. But even a really complicated operation like a knee replacement, if you self-pay to have the best surgeon in the world operate on you in the best hospital in London, it’s only going to cost you £12,000. So if you put it in that context, private insurance isn’t brilliant, which is why it hasn’t grown as an industry in the last 10-15 years. 

“We will see increased interaction between self-pay and the NHS where companies like ours can complement their life-saving work.”

We’re offering a cost effective method of instant treatment rather than a concept of paying month on month when you don’t need to, or the concept of waiting for treatment on the NHS, which is such a lengthy, agonising process for people who are in pain. We’re trying to cut down that journey by making self-pay healthcare available to everybody. 

What’s the difference between getting an MRI scan through self-pay, private health insurance or the NHS?

Everyone can get an MRI scan at Living Room Health just by walking through our doors, and we will see you that day. You only pay once for the scan that you need.

Via the NHS a person would need a GP referral to physio or to a Consultation who would then request an MRI scan. Although timings and waiting lists vary depending on many factors you might expect up to an 18- 24 month wait for that initial MRI scan. The Living Room Health service is aimed at obliterating waiting time to get you onto diagnosis, rehabilitation, and treatment right away.

With private health insurance you will pay a premium on a monthly basis and be directed to an approved MRI supplier if you make a claim. Insurance companies have their own processes and criteria that patients have to fulfil in order to access these services so there is still an element of process to be approved and go through to access healthcare services.

Can you get treatments via self-pay that you can’t privately?

Yes. For example, plasma-rich platelet (PRP) injections – which are actually approved on the NHS – you can’t get privately. Living Room Health offers it at a very competitive rate, but it’s just not available through private healthcare – even though PRP is proven to be a great treatment for people with things like tendon injuries. Our speed of adopting new technologies and new treatments is much quicker than the insurance companies. 

Insurance companies don’t want to provide these sorts of things because they don’t want to allow people to have greater access to a wider variety of treatments. They want to restrict their customers to difficult pathways because it puts them off making claims, thereby creating greater profits for insurance companies’ shareholders. 

How does self-pay translate into a corporate offering?

Corporations need to look at the health of their employees holistically by providing them with regular health screenings. This is a much more proactive model of healthcare; company healthcare is usually very reactive.

The idea is to focus on keeping people well, and that’s an attractive proposition for organisations because we can identify trends in their workforce, and help introduce programs that will keep employees active. Employers don’t want people having to take sick days, and they don’t want employees leaving their jobs because of illness. If you look at their workforce as an asset, we’re helping to keep that asset fitter, healthier and more active, so they can keep using that asset for as long as possible. Meanwhile employees get to stay healthier, they get a health programme and they gain a greater understanding of their health. 

How do you see healthcare evolving over the next 20 years?

We will see increased interaction between self-pay and the NHS where companies like ours can complement their life-saving work. It is already evolving. I believe the NHS is going to increasingly look to self-pay providers for support with what they’re doing, because its ability to deliver healthcare in a cost effective way is really limited. Businesses like ours have the flexibility and nimble infrastructure to organise health provision in a cost-effective way.