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Can we put a price tag on our health?

In a time-driven society, combined with busy lives and the hectic demands of work and family, we’ve all battled the dilemma of ‘something’s really not quite right – but is it worth a trip to the doctors?’  It’s easy to think that after a few days rest it will all be sorted or, if it’s not better within a week, you’ll go then. But next week comes and goes and there is still no improvement. Time to take action.

A consultation with your doctor may provide you with reassurance but, if your concerns do require further investigation, then ‘early’ diagnosis intervention is essential for a better recovery outcome.  Depending on the type and extent of your symptoms, you may get a sanity-saving referral for an MRI scan.  But, there are some drawbacks to obtaining that ‘sanity saving’ referral. In particular, if you are looking for an NHS appointment, you will probably be added to an ever-growing waiting list. This can be anything up to 18 weeks if deemed to be non-urgent.

A recent surge in the number of ‘self-referred’ patients visiting private healthcare facility, Avicenna Clinic in Peterborough for MRI scans would indicate that there is a growing trend for people seeking to take better control of their own health in a timelier manner, bypassing the NHS system, to gain quicker access to peace of mind. The popularity of MRI scans as the preferred choice of investigative technology in healthcare is extraordinary, but justified.

For those not familiar with the technology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans use magnets and radio waves to provide the most detailed and intricate images of the body, far superior to those produced by X-rays or CT scans.  The images produced by MRI scans allow a thorough investigation and quick diagnosis of a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, haemorrhages, cardiac problems and cancer assessment. 

MRI is totally safe for both children and adults because it doesn’t involve any radiation exposure.  And, since it is also a non-invasive and painless procedure, its suitability for use is even greater. This may explain why the NHS is utilising this tool more than ever before – to the tune of 3 million patients in 2016 alone, and why there are whole private facilities dedicated to just MRI scanning.

Dr Hany Elmadbouh, lead consultant and founder of private healthcare facility, Avicenna Clinic in Peterborough, says “A lot of the patients I now see are seeking greater control of their own health.  Today’s society is much more aware of the opportunities to self-investigate their health issues and see the benefit in paying for the satisfaction of a quick appointment and speedy response.  In addition, there is also a growing trend of people who are simply looking to reassure themselves that they are well – they don’t want any nasty surprises.”

The simple fact is – there are approximately 65 million people in the UK and, of those, only 1.3 million are employed by the NHS.  It is literally bursting at its seams and there just isn’t enough money to employ more people. So staff, including consultants, are forced to do the best they can, in a short time period, under immense pressure – pressure to take care of as many patients as possible, pressure to keep to tight deadlines and pressure to save money.  And MRI scans are not cheap. So how does the NHS system cope with the huge demand for MRI scans with their ever tight financial constraints?

Dr Hany’s private clinic in Peterborough has the first open MRI scanner in the East of England and, as a consultant radiologist here, and for the NHS service, he regularly carries out MRI scans on a wide range of patients.  He outlines that, in order to deliver the most effective MRI scan, to get the right level of detail and achieve the best results, he will spend, on average, 45 minutes per patient which allows him to factor in a ‘maximum’ of two scans per hour. 

In contrast, some hospitals are regularly attempting to squeeze at least three MRI scans into the same hour.  The pressure of this translates to each consultant being targeted with achieving a fully-conclusive scan outcome in roughly 20 minutes. This includes the need to obtain all images required to successfully diagnose a patient. 

“Arguably”, says Dr Hany, “there is a trade-off between the length of the scan and the quality of images produced. If only 20 minutes is allocated to carrying out an MRI scan, is it really possible for you to be guaranteed the same quality of images that you would get from a scan that is double its duration?  And therefore, will the reporting and subsequent treatment planning be as correct?  

It’s a lot to take on board, particularly if you have already been waiting a substantial amount of time to have the scan in the first place.  A wait which may well have caused your condition to worsen, increased your anxiety and left you wondering whether you should have skipped the queue and gone private.  

An increasing number of my patients are self-paying for their treatment and are more than satisfied that the benefits of this far outweigh the alternative of taking long-term residence in a virtual queue”.

Avicenna Clinic is an independent, consultant-led private healthcare practice conveniently located in a flagship, purpose-renovated building in Peterborough city centre.  The clinic welcomes self-pay and insured patients the opportunity to receive the best, personalised healthcare at a time to suit you.  To find out more or to book an appointment, call the Avicenna Clinic on 0330 202 0597 or visit avicennaclinic.com.

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