Knee replacement surgery: going private or abroad

Lesley Dobson / 19 February 2015

Waiting lists for ops can seem very long - in 2014 the NHS carried out 64,372 knee procedures. Where can you have your knee surgery done more quickly?

Having your knee replacement done privately

There are a couple of options that can speed up the process. Having your knee replacement surgery carried out privately can mean that you have your operation more quickly, but you will have to pay for it, and it can be expensive.

Figures from 2013 gave an average cost of £11,215. This amount may well have changed since then, so it’s important to check costs for yourself, including the amount you’d have to pay for accommodation for yourself and for anyone travelling with you.

Saga Private Medical Insurance provides cover for joint replacements, including hip and knee replacement surgery.

Going abroad for knee replacement treatment

Having your operation carried out abroad can reduce the time you have to wait for your knee replacement, and may be cheaper than going privately in the UK. Make sure you check your figures and include everything, such as travel and accommodation costs for yourself and a companion.

You may be able to have your treatment abroad and claim the money back from the NHS. If you are interested in finding out more about this, the phrase you need to know is the EU Directive route. The EU Directive on cross-border healthcare was passed in 2011. It means that all European Economic Area (EEA) citizens have the right to buy healthcare services in the EEA. This includes hospitals run by the state, and private healthcare providers.

NHS payback

What this means is that you can buy healthcare in another EEA country and then apply to the NHS to pay you back. There are some important points to remember. You must need to have the treatment on medical grounds, and it must be treatment you could have through the NHS. And the amount you can claim back is limited to the amount of money it would have cost the NHS to carry out the treatment.

Talk to your GP and your consultant or surgeon about this before you make any decisions. They may be able to give you useful information and advice. You need to know whether, with your condition and state of health, it is a good idea to travel abroad. You also need to know what will happen if you have any complications as a result of the surgery and have to stay in hospital longer than necessary. You may need to get approval for the treatment abroad before you go – ask your GP about this too. Make sure you do all your research, or it could work out more expensive than you planned for.

Buying healthcare abroad

You can find out information on treatment in different countries in the EEA, by getting in touch with their National Contact Point. You can find a full list of this information at

Another possibility is the S2 route to having medical treatment in another European country. This is similar to the EU Directive, but it does mean that you may have to pay some of the costs yourself. And you will have to apply for funding for your treatment before you travel. There is also useful information on the NHS Choices website.

It is really important that you research this subject thoroughly, or it could turn out to be more expensive than you planned for.  How much will travel/health insurance cost you?  What happens if you need to be flown back to the UK for further treatment? How much will it cost for someone to travel with you and stay in a hotel?

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.