This guide explains what treatments are available privately for stroke-related conditions, and some of the things you should consider when seeking private treatment. It also provides a list of organisations that can help you in your search for safe and reliable private treatment.

The information on this page can be accessed in the following formats:

What is private treatment?

In the UK most of the care you receive from the NHS is free at the point you receive it. Any health treatment you pay for yourself, either directly or through medical insurance, is known as private treatment. 

Why would I consider private treatment?

Some people choose to be treated privately because:

  • NHS waiting lists can be long, and they want to receive treatment quickly.
  • They want to continue a treatment that is only available through the NHS for a fixed period of time.
  • The treatment they want is not offered by the NHS.
  • They want to choose where and when they receive their treatment, or they want to be treated by a particular specialist.   

What private treatments are available for stroke?

Different types of assessments and treatments for stroke are available privately. They include:

  • Health screening for stroke risk factors.
  • TIA (transient ischaemic attack) clinics and brain scans.
  • Rehabilitation including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dieticians, speech and language therapy.

Private health screening

If you don’t have any symptoms but are concerned about your risk of a stroke, you can use private screening services. You can have tests and checks for health conditions linked to higher stroke risk, such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and diabetes. If you are told that you have any health conditions, you need to get treatment for them. You can go to your NHS GP, or pursue private treatment. 

You may be asked questions about your health and lifestyle, and receive advice about healthy lifestyle choices. 

Before you choose a private health screening service, check if the service is regulated. See the What should I do if I am considering private treatment? section later on this page. Remember, if you already have any symptoms, you must go to your GP. 

TIA clinics and brain scans

If you have had a TIA (transient ischaemic attack), a TIA clinic can conduct a series of tests to find out what caused it. This is provided by the NHS, but you can choose to attend a private TIA clinic instead. The clinic will offer tests for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health conditions such as diabetes or an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). You can also be tested for carotid artery disease, which is when the two large blood vessels at the front of your neck become narrowed. 

Brain scans

A computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can produce images of your brain to confirm whether or not you have had a stroke and where it took place in the brain. You will usually have one of these scans when you are admitted to hospital with a suspected stroke. However, if your doctor thinks you may have had a stroke some time ago, having one of these scans privately may be able to confirm this for you.

Rehabilitation

If you’ve had a stroke you may need some rehabilitation. These services should be available to you, at least initially, through the NHS, but you can also pay for additional help privately. Sometimes rehabilitation after stroke is called neuro-rehabilitation.

Some of the rehabilitation therapies that are available privately include:

  • Physiotherapy for help with mobility, muscle weakness and balance problems.
  • Speech and language therapy for help with communication difficulties or swallowing and eating.
  • Occupational therapy for help with regaining independence in everyday activities.
  • Clinical psychology for help with cognitive problems such as memory loss or poor concentration, or for help with the emotional impact of stroke such as depression, anxiety and personality changes.   

Can I have private and NHS treatment at the same time?

Having private treatment should not affect your right to treatment from the NHS. If you are receiving treatment from the NHS and extra private treatment would help you, you can have both.

Your private treatment should be carried out at a different time and in a different place to the treatment you receive from the NHS. Make sure you tell your doctors and therapists about all of the treatments you’re receiving, so that they can be aware of any issues and ensure that your care is consistent. 

How do I pay for private treatment?

The costs for private treatment can vary greatly depending on where you live and the type of treatment you are looking for.

Usually private treatment is paid for through a medical insurance policy or directly from your own money, which is called self-funding. With some insurance policies you will have to pay for the treatment yourself and then claim the money back, whereas others will pay the hospital or therapist for you.

If you have medical insurance, make sure you read your policy carefully before you start treatment. It’s best to contact the insurance company in advance, to get their written agreement that they will pay, and to find out:

  • Whether they will cover the whole cost of the treatment, or whether there are some costs that you will have to cover yourself. 
  • Whether they will accept a referral from your GP or if the company has its own consultant that you may have to speak to.   

What should I do if I am considering private treatment?

The first thing you need to do is speak to your GP. He or she will be able to tell you about all the treatments available to you, both privately and through the NHS.

Although doctors cannot advertise private services to their patients, your GP will be able to advise whether a particular treatment is suitable for you. And even though it is possible to have private treatment without consulting your GP, it’s a good idea to ask them to refer you, as they know your medical history. You will not be charged for a referral. 

Before choosing a provider, you need to do some research. If you can, contact a few private therapists or hospitals near to you to compare the services they offer and how much they cost. This will help you to make an informed decision.

Citizen’s Advice offers advice about what you should consider when buying private healthcare. Visit their website at www.adviceguide.org.uk.

If you do decide to have treatment privately you need to make sure that the therapist or specialist you use is registered with the professional body that regulates their area of work. We also recommend that any rehabilitation therapist you use has experience in working with people affected by stroke.

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