What is the Six-Week Option in Private Medical Insurance?

Learn about the pros and cons of adding a six-week option to your private medical insurance.

How does a six-week option work?

Selecting a six-week option when taking out private medical insurance means that, instead of claiming on your policy, you will use the NHS if it can deliver inpatient or day patient treatment within six weeks of referral. Some providers offer a four-week option which works in the same way. Neither affects your outpatient benefit, meaning you can still see private consultants and have scans and tests during this time.

For example:

If you are diagnosed with cancer or a heart condition, the NHS will typically offer some form of treatment within six weeks. This means that in the vast majority of cases you will not receive private treatment. For example, you may need to have cancer/heart surgery under the NHS, or perhaps be unable to access drugs that would usually be available privately.

However, you’ll usually get private treatment for things like hip and knee replacements, plus other non-urgent conditions. This is because NHS waiting times are likely to be longer than six weeks.

What are the pro's and con's of a six-week option?

At first glance, it’s clear that the six-week option is a good way to save money, as it reduces the chances of you needing to make a claim. That means that providers will lower your premiums, and you’ll pay less for your insurance.

However, the six-week option can prevent you from being seen by your chosen consultant. If the doctor that diagnosed your condition doesn’t have appointments available under the NHS, or doesn’t work as part of the NHS, this may lead to delays while you are assigned to a new consultant. It’s also possible that they’ll want to run their own diagnostics pre-treatment, which isn’t ideal if you took out private health insurance in order to be seen quickly.

You also need to remember that you could end up using NHS facilities when you don’t want to. For example, after a stroke or heart attack, you will probably have a long stay in an NHS hospital rather than a private one.

The six-week option can cause disappointment if it isn’t fully understood. Check whether it’s a good idea to add it to your policy by calling us for free expert advice.

Six-week option FAQ's

If you are looking to save money, and are happy to receive treatment for cancer or heart problems on the NHS, then the six-week option could be right for you.

Currently Aviva and AXA PPP offer a six-week option. We can compare quotes from all of these providers to get you the best policy for your needs. Meanwhile, Saga provides a four-week option and although we don’t offer their policies to our clients, we can review existing Saga policies. Just give us a call and we will advise you.

Yes, although this is considered an upgrade, so it will be subject to
underwriting questions You will usually be asked if you have anything planned or pending with a medical professional other than your GP. If so, your insurer may not remove the six-week option, or they may place a moratorium where only new conditions are eligible for the benefit.

If removing the six-week option is still a priority then you could consider Vitality Health’s “switch and save” offer, where they match or increase your cover levels and beat your current or renewal premium. As they have no six-week option, they will adjust your premium accordingly, which is unlikely to be much more than you are paying your current insurer.

Please contact us to discuss your options if you want to remove a six-week option.

Private Health Insurance Key Terms

We are here to help you understand the main concepts you’ll come
across in your private health insurance policy.

Private health insurance cover options

Inpatient & Outpatient

Inpatient cover applies to treatment requiring an overnight hospital bed, while outpatient is for tests and consultations where a bed isn’t necessary.

Private GP

Avoid long NHS waiting lists, and instead see a private GP at your convenience.

Mental Health

Mental health insurance can cover a range of conditions, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse.


Receive private physiotherapy treatment to get back on the move as quickly as possible.


Cancer cover lets you skip NHS waiting lists and even access drugs and procedures only available to private patients.


Learn about some of the additional benefits you can add to a private health insurance policy.