Private Drug Rehab vs. NHS Rehab
Deciding that you need help for your addiction is a big step, possibly the biggest choice of your life. It takes courage and emotional maturity to reach the stage where you’re willing to change your life around. But an even more important decision is deciding the type of treatment you need – and when cost comes into it, the choices can be overwhelming.
Table of Contents
- 1. What to expect from NHS rehab
- 2. What to expect from private rehab
- 3. NHS rehab: the pros & cons
- 4. Private rehab: the pros & cons
- 5. Is private rehab better?
- 6. Who qualifies for NSH rehab?
- 7. Funding for NHS rehab
- 8. Funding for private rehab
- 9. Private rehab: cost vs value
- 10. Referral to NHS rehab
- 11. Referral to private rehab
- 12. The rehab process for both
- 13. References
Not everyone has the financial capacity to send themselves or a loved one to rehab. Often, relying on publicly-funded services is the choice for many. These services have developed vastly from when they first established, and the levels of care among staff and professionals is a testament to the NHS. But unfortunately, as with many government-funded organisations, the quality and accessibility of care is limited to due restricted finances.
In contrast, private rehab centres are going from strength to strength, with services and therapies advancing with the times. In this post, we will look at the pros and cons of both private and NHS rehab programmes, and the ways in which you can access both.
What can I expect from NHS rehab?
The NHS offers drug and alcohol rehab that is government-funded and free to those referred. Nearly all NHS programmes are outpatient, meaning care or monitoring isn’t provided around the clock. While there are many rehab locations, there are often long waitlists for programmes that can be susceptible to funding cuts, lowering patient care quality.
If patients decide to opt for NHS Rehab, they must be referred to a clinic nearby by your general practitioner and will likely be prescribed medications to assist in rehab processes. If referred to NHS care, patients do not worry about rehab or treatment costs. A common alternative to NHS rehab is private drug rehab, which offers full-time, residential care. Unlike NHS care, it does require out-of-pocket payment.
Most of the time, private rehab offers more thorough care, often in an inpatient setting. Private care usually offers post-detox treatment services, which are not always considered part of patient rehab care at NHS facilities. Patients in private rehab can expect to receive counsellors or group therapy, find peer support, and have the option of various forms of treatment. 
What can I expect from private rehab?
While NHS treatment addresses the needs of the patient on a basic level, private rehab exceeds expectations in every aspect. Firstly, private rehab centres are generally more opulent, with more extensive facilities and luxurious settings. You will have full access to gym, leisure and occasionally spa facilities, while staying in a private, comfortable room.
Secondly, the level of care you receive during private treatment will be similar to NHS in that trained medics will look after you throughout your time. However, the general ease of access to medication and anything that will improve your discomfort during the withdrawal period is what differentiates public from private rehab. You will have immediate access to a team of doctors and nurses who understand your condition and who know exactly what you need and when.
You will also be able to have sessions with trained counsellors and psychiatrists whenever you need. Your peers (patients who are also in recovery at the centres) will also be a wonderful source of support for you. The types of therapies you will receive also vary greatly from those in NHS rehab. These include art therapy, fitness therapy, holistic therapy, music therapy and more. 
The pros and cons of NHS rehab
There are positives and negatives to both NHS and private rehabilitation settings. First, the NHS is free to referred patients, while private care can be expensive, especially without health insurance. Also, more locations for NHS rehab care exist than private rehab facilities, making NHS care more accessible to more people. Finally, necessary therapies will be administered to those in NHS care and patients will not need to be concerned about costs, while private care requires additional medication or therapy payments.
However, private rehab facilities do not have long waiting lists like the NHS centres do, so private care might be quicker. Patients also have access to medical professionals at any time during private care, but NHS care is not typically inpatient and may have restricted access. Lastly, not all NHS facilities provide funding for post-detox treatment like private care would, enabling more thorough treatment for severe substance abuse.
While neither option is inherently better, consider specific needs for rehab to select NHS or private rehab. Private rehab may cost more upfront, but often the long-term value exceeds NHS rehab by allowing personalised treatments. Tailored, multi-faceted care typically lowers the likelihood of relapse; private rehab may be better for patients with serious or deeply-rooted issues to eradicate destructive dependencies.
Pros and cons of private rehab
Ultimately, the concept that puts people off private rehab is the cost. There is no doubt that the fees are steep and will leaves some out of pocket but when it comes to health, there is no price. On the other hand, the cons of private rehab are endless. It really is the best place for you to be to recover.
Below we have listed some of the main benefits of private rehab:
- Access to 24-hour medical care from a team of the best nurses and doctors in the country
- Full access to medications whenever required, administered specifically to your needs
- A sense of community from your peers
- Comfort and security in an opulent setting which is highly important during the withdrawal process
- Full use of facilities which can include spa, gym and leisure
- Healthy, nutritional meals to aid recovery
- A perfectly constructed environment that promotes recovery at all angles with an intense level of care
- No distractions from daily life to trigger you
- 12 months free aftercare
- Direct access to counsellors and alternative therapies whenever you need
As we mentioned before, there aren’t many downsides to private treatment. Some consider the private residential setting somewhat intense and overbearing. This means that you have to follow a rather strict programme which includes waking up time, meals and activity slots, with every hour being structured for you.
While some see this as dictating, others see it as a means of establishing a routine which is highly important in recovery. Also, insurers tend only to cover outpatient treatment which means the final fee of private treatment will largely be covered by yourself.
Is private rehab better than NHS rehab?
While private rehab has many benefits as outlined above, NHS treatment often delivers quality care too. But the main issue is not with the quality, but with availability. According to Colin Drummond, psychology professor at King’s College London, the NHS are facing up to 30% cuts in alcohol addiction treatment services. 
This means that with funding reduced, the services and capacity for NHS addiction patients is reducing. On the other hand, private rehabilitation centres are not faced with grants and funding challenges, and therefore will always have spaces readily available, usually immediately.
In this sense, private rehab can be seen as more accessible and imminent than waiting for public treatment to kick-start. In terms of medication and prescriptions to deal with withdrawal, private centres will generally always have full stock and will be able to administer high-quality medication to patients. Because of this, people often find private treatment is the best option.
Who qualifies for NHS rehab?
NHS treatment can be a valuable option, but government programmes have qualifications for selecting patients. Restricted funding requires careful selection using GP referrals, and chances of receiving NHS care are not always in favour of those suffering from substance abuse.
NHS care is generally free, but this means funding comes from a patient’s county, local authority, or programmes such as the Providence Projects. Private rehab care is paid for by the patient (in cash, credit card, or personal loans) or through supportive family members. 
Tell me more about funding for NHS rehab?
Many people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction will be the first to tell you that there is no ‘free NHS rehab.’ However, community and government-led drug and alcohol support teams will be able to offer free detoxification services, as well as counselling afterwards. However, these tend to be subject to a long waiting list, with many people attempting to access the free services at once.
Each local authority will have its own procedure for drug and alcohol services, which change every year to reflect demand. Only those who severely require these free services will be eligible, meaning the vast majority of people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse will miss out on recovery treatments. Public-sector organisations such as Providence Projects are on hand to support those who do secure NHS treatment.
Through NHS treatment incentives, successful applicants will have access to a detoxification programme, medication through a GP, and can be referred to community-based programmes. But this is as far as NHS funding for addiction goes. 
Tell me more about funding for private rehab
Private alcohol treatment is first and foremost personally funded, meaning it is down to the patient and their family (or employer) to come up with the funds for this treatment. Those with private healthcare insurance are generally covered for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. However, the vast majority of UK residents do not have this benefit, with the prevalence of NHS treatment. There are other options to self-fund rehab, which include:
Although it can be a large sum of money to part with, private rehab centres do not actually cost that much when you think of it in the long-term. The money spent on drugs and alcohol, the costs people who suffer undertake while under the influence, and the amount spent on rectifying consequences of addiction can often add up.
Think in terms of the substance itself, the money spent perhaps on food or transport that people spend frivolously when inhibitions are lowered, and then costs of legal fees, lawyers, childcare or reduction in wages due to a number of sick days being taken off work.
Paying upfront by dipping into savings is often the first choice of private treatment patients, who make the decision to invest in their health and future.
Many people in the UK have credit cards, and use them for things like holidays, Christmas or house improvements. So why not use your credit for something that will change your life for the better?
You will obviously pay interest to the banks but in the long run, this will prevent future spending on substances and potential legal fees, and will put those who suffer from addiction onto a clearer and more responsible path.
The person suffering, or their family, can approach banks and ask for a personal loan to cover the cost of treatment. This has been known to work in a few instances, but the risk of your application being denied does run rather high.
The one thing to remember about addiction and recovery is that people do care about you and your health. Perhaps your extended family can see the damage you are doing to yourself and your immediate family, and would be willing to pool resources to get you the treatment you need.
Private rehab: cost VS value
It is generally considered that self-funding private rehab has a greater chance at a successful recovery and a lower risk of relapse. This is because the individual knows and appreciates the money and toil that went into it. Being able to self-fund your own treatment means that you have an active part in your recovery, and are able to choose the best rehab centre for you rather than going through NHS or publicly funded treatment that just isn’t quite right.
Private rehab tends to address all your needs from medical and detox, to the psychological aspects of addiction through therapy and counselling. Some private treatment centres even offer volunteering opportunities or life skills programmes, meaning your quality of life after leaving a rehab centre is vastly improved. Furthermore, most private treatment centres offer family therapy, meaning you are investing into your own life and those of others.
This emphasis on social and relational dynamics helps build self-esteem, confidence and repair relationships. So it’s not only the patient that benefits from the treatment, but the family too.
How to get referred to NHS rehab
It’s important for those suffering drug and alcohol abuse to know that they do have rights to NHS treatment, but it will only be administered if other interventions have failed. First, those concerned about substance abuse must go through their GP to receive a drug and alcohol team to open a case, perform an assessment of the patient, and start community treatments before considering the NHS.
It’s crucial that a close loved one or friend of the patient keep careful records of all professional involvement and treatment that the patient undergoes; often, if a patient is referred to an NHS facility, it’s because records such as these have proven that all other treatments have been exhausted or ineffective. From there, if previous treatments have failed, the patient is referred to an NHS facility for substance abuse.
How to enter residential rehab
Upon admission to residential rehab, patients undergo assessments, then professionals will discuss insurance and financial options for care. Although NHS and private facilities operate differently, both options follow the same basic treatment path. Both address substance abuse as an issue that negatively affects a patient’s life. It then removes the drug from the patient’s system (detox) under close medical attention, ensuring safety.
After detox, the treatment moves into a therapeutic phase to assist in breaking dependency and creating an opportunity for the patient to explore life free from substance abuse. Aftercare is also part of treatment at all facilities, where patients are involved in activities such as support groups, continuing therapy, or counselling to avoid relapses. Whether patients undergo NHS or private rehab care, they will receive lifesaving, valid treatment to break the cycles of addiction and help them move into an independent, healthy lifestyle.
What is the rehab process for both options?
When it comes down to basics, both NHS and private rehab follow the same process for addiction recovery. Both start with an assessment and referral, where your needs will be outlined and the nature of your addiction understood. In private settings, this will be done by the admissions team of a particular centre, and in NHS terms, your GP.
The first aspect of treatment in both options is a medical detox, where the substance will be removed from your body completely. This is mandatory in order for the recovery process to succeed, and can often be unpleasant and in some cases dangerous. This is why detox is usually undergone in a supervised medical setting, where doctors are on hand to meet your medical needs.
The next step is the rehabilitation itself, which looks at the mental and emotional aspects of addiction now that the physical side has been addressed in detox. This stage includes counselling and therapy. In private rehab, this can be done multiple times a day with the highest level of counsellors and therapists. For NHS patients, this can be less frequent but will always be held weekly. 
Both private and NHS treatment programmes use group therapy as a means of counselling. This provides a sense of community and offers peer support which has been noted as a highly beneficial aspect of addiction treatment. Confidence, self-worth and a sense of belonging is often nurtured, while empathy and a mutual understanding promotes recovery and sobriety.
Aftercare is another aspect that both private and public rehab offer. This means that once you have ‘recovered,’ you will receive follow up care by means of appointments, check-ups, and therapy to address any issues you may have.
About the author:
Jon writes for ADT Healthcare and a number of other websites. Jon graduated with a degree in psychology in 1992. Jon has been in recovery for 19 years.