United Kingdom
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UK healthcare system

The UK operates a universal healthcare system called the National Health Service, or NHS, which is free to all at the point of delivery. This is funded by taxes and National Insurance payments, which are made by all workers and their employers. The scheme covers everything from general practitioners to complex surgery or cancer treatment. The NHS also covers a limited amount of fertility treatment for couples that meet certain criteria.

European citizens, as well as those from certain other countries with a reciprocal healthcare agreement, such as Australia and new Zealand, can access the NHS free of charge.

The standards of care in NHS hospitals is generally good, with well equipped clinics and well trained doctors and nurses. However, the system is generally under funded and can sometimes struggle with patient numbers, leading to long waiting lists for non-urgent operations and elective surgery.

This has lead to the creation of an alternative, private health system, with members paying for health insurance to avoid the waiting lists and have greater choice of better funded, higher quality facilities. Some private medical insurance companies simply fund treatment, while others, such as BUPA, have their own private hospitals and clinics.

In many cases, it is the same consultants and surgeons who work in both sectors. The advantage of going private is that you are able to access these specialists much more quickly and at a time that is convenient to you. The staff levels, quality of food and other facilities at private hospitals tends to be far better than their NHS equivalents.

The private sector also caters for treatments that are not available on the NHS, such as fertility treatment, for couples who do not qualify for NHS treatment, as well as cosmetic surgery and certain weight loss treatments.

The UK welcomes healthcare tourists, especially in the major cities such as London and Manchester, who come to take advantage of the first class facilities and leading medical practitioners on offer. UK private healthcare is expensive compared to some countries, especially in Asia or Eastern Europe, but the standards are significantly better. For patients seeking quality over cost, the UK is a premier destination to consider. Many of the cutting edge treatments available in the UK, such as pioneering cancer therapies and groundbreaking fertility techniques, are simply not available in many of the budget healthcare tourism destinations, making the UK one of the few options available.

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