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What are the 36 critical illnesses? – Complete guide 2024

Critical illness insurance is the best type of cover to protect your family against financial difficulty if you or your partner becomes seriously ill. In this guide, our team of critical illness insurance experts answer the question ‘what are the 36 critical illnesses?’ that are covered by most UK insurance companies in 2024.

Most critical illness insurance companies will cover a diagnosis of cancer, heart attack or stroke, and some insurers will cover more than 100 conditions as standard. The level of cover that you have will depend on the specific insurance company and policy that you choose, so it is important to consider your options carefully.

Lots of people are concerned about what they would do if they couldn’t work because of a serious illness, especially anyone with children or other financial dependents. Critical illness insurance will pay out a cash lump sum to help pay for all your regular expenses (e.g. utility bills, mortgage payments, rent, and other costs of living).

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60-Second Summary – What are the 36 Critical Illnesses?

Critical illness insurance can make a huge difference to you and your family if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, such as Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis and many more. Getting the right policy and paying a ‘fair price’ are both important to make sure that it pays out when you need it to.

  • Standard critical illness insurance policies cover anywhere between 40 and 80 medical conditions, and you can even get policies that cover up to 180 different conditions.
  • Cancer is by far the highest of all claims paid out under any critical illness insurance policy which represents as many as 81% of female claims.
  • There are some quick and simple ways to lower the cost of your policy like increasing the amount of excess you pay for claims or reducing your level of cover.
  • The best way to get the right critical illness insurance policies and to save money is by getting advice from a specialist broker or expert, as recommended by Martin Lewis and MoneySavingExpert.com.

What is critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover offers a tax-free cash lump sum payout in the event of a serious medical diagnosis. This insurance serves as a valuable resource for both you and your family during challenging times brought on by severe health issues.

In a real life example, our customer Simon explains how his Royal London critical illness insurance policy provided him with much needed financial support following his stroke in 2023. Simon bought his policy only 8 weeks before his stroke happened and submitted a successful claim with the help our insurance experts.

Critical Illness Insurance: Simon’s Story | MoneyPeopleOnline

Why should I buy critical illness cover?

Ultimately, critical illness cover is a valuable tool for safeguarding your financial stability and peace of mind in the face of severe medical conditions. It’s worth considering to ensure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Some of the main reasons people choose to buy critical illness insurance include:

  • Increased financial security for you and your loved ones
  • Can often be added on to a life insurance policy
  • Extra help in covering medical expenses if you choose private healthcare
  • Help in maintaining your current lifestyle if you can’t work due to your health
  • Flexible policies allow you to pick the level of cover you need
  • Reduces emotional stress caused by money worries
  • Peace of mind that you are prepared if anything happens to your health

Our customers regularly ask us ‘which illnesses are covered by the most common critical illness cover policies?’ and which ones are the best policies for them. The fact is that all Critical Illness Insurance policies are different in many ways, even though they all tend to cover the same common medical conditions such as cancer or a heart attack.

We help thousands of customers every year to find the best cover to protect themselves and their family’s against financial hardship if they were to be diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and serious injury.

A critical illness claim can help cover key expenses such as:

  • Mortgage or rent payments
  • Cost of living for a period of time
  • Adjustments to your home
  • Treatment to help your conditions

If you need more help to find the right critical illness policy for you then you can contact our team of experts for free advice on 0800 009 6559 today.

An image of a patient in  hospital holding someone's hand and the caption 'What are the 36 critical illnesses? Read our latest FREE critical illness insurance guide'

Many people who are looking for critical illness cover are concerned about what is covered and how it works. You might have heard in the past that there are 36 critical illnesses that are covered which isn’t always the case, but it’s a good place to start.

Most critical illness cover policies will include the 36 main conditions as well as several more depending on the insurer and level of the plan.

The following are widely considered the 36 main critical illnesses:

1. Cancer19. Hepatitis (Fulminant Viral)
2. Heart Attack20. Coronary Artery Disease
3. Stroke21. Encephalitis
4. Kidney Failure22. Head Trauma
5. Multiple Sclerosis23. Medullary Cystic Disease
6. Parkinson’s Disease24. Brain Surgery
7. Alzheimer’s Disease25. Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
8. Brain Tumour (Benign)26. Lung Disease (end-stage)
9. Paralysis (limbs)27. Surgery of the Aorta
10. Muscular Dystrophy28. Terminal Illness
11. Third Degree Burns29. Loss of Independence
12. HIV30. Major Organ Transplant
13. Cardiomyopathy31. Primary Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
14. Loss of Speech32. Severe Coronary Artery Disease
15. Chronic Aplastic Anaemia33. Heart Valve Surgery
16. Blindness (Permanent)34. Angioplasty
17. Bacterial Meningitis35. Coma
18. Liver Failure (end-stage)36. Deafness (Permanent)

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Critical illness cover pays out a cash lump sum if you are diagnosed with a serious condition covered by your policy. This payment can be used to cover important expenses like mortgage payments, adjustments to your home and more…

Critical illness policies generally cover up to or around 75 critical illness definitions and will payout 100% of the sum assured at the point of claim.

If you want a higher level of protection, you can opt for an enhanced critical illness cover policy. This type of critical illness cover policy will pay out for up to 182 different serious illness definitions. The main difference is that it will pay out 100% for severe conditions and drop down to 10% based on severity or impact on lifestyle.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has stated that for any policy to be called ‘critical illness’ insurance, it must at minimum provide cover for cancer, heart attack and stroke. Beyond this, the number of medical conditions that you can claim for will vary based on your policy and the insurance company itself.

When you buy your policy, you should always check the terms and conditions to see which conditions you can claim for. If you buy your policy through an insurance broker, your advisor will be able to explain this for you if you are unsure where to look.

ABI Minimum Standards for Critical Illness Insurance – CLICK HERE

Critical illness insurance will normally only pay out once, after an official diagnosis of your condition. At that point, your policy would end and you would need to buy a new policy to be covered against any future critical illness diagnoses.

If you have a combined life and critical illness insurance policy, you may be able to claim twice (once for critical illness, once for death). This only applies with certain life and critical illness policies, usually if you have opted for ‘additional’ critical illness cover.

If you need advice about how critical illness insurance policies and claims work, an experienced critical illness insurance expert can offer free and friendly guidance.

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You will need an official diagnosis from a GP or specialist, before you can submit a claim on your critical illness insurance policy. The claims process process can vary slightly, but the first step would be to contact your insurance company to let them know that you need to claim.

Their team will then ask for more information and will be able to decide if your claim is valid, based on the terms and conditions of your policy. Many people worry that that a critical illness policy won’t pay out, but this generally isn’t true. According to data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), insurance companies paid out on 19,218 of critical illness claims in 2022 (91.6% of claims received).

Claims statistics will vary between insurance companies, but your insurer will normally pay out if your condition fits the definition within your policy documents.

Critical Illness Cover provider reviews

You can buy a critical illness policy after being diagnosed with a medical condition, but you won’t be able to claim for any conditions that are ‘pre-existing‘. This means that you wouldn’t be able to claim for any conditions you already have, but you will be protected against conditions that develop in the future.

Critical illness cover may not be available for people with certain medical conditions, so it is always best to speak to an expert for advice if you have pre-existing conditions.

What are the odds of getting a critical illness?

We are all more likely to develop medical issues as we get older. If you were to develop a serious illness, critical illness cover can help with the cost of important bills – letting you focus on recovering or adapting to your new medical condition.


What is the average cost of critical illness cover UK?

The average cost of a critical illness cover policy will vary depending on factors like your age and medical history. According to our research, you can get a policy from as little as £8.78 (for a 25 year old non-smoker).  

More information – Average cost of critical illness cover UK


What are the top 3 critical illnesses?

The top 3 critical illnesses in the UK are:

  • Cancer
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke

What percentage of critical illness claims are for cancer?

Cancer is one of the main reasons for critical illness insurance claims in the UK. Cancer accounts for 81% of critical illness cover claims for women and 44% of critical illness claims for men.

If you need more advice or help to get the best critical illness cover for you then please feel free to contact our experts on 0800 009 6559.

Resources

Office for National Statistics – Half a million more people are out of the labour force because of long-term sickness

Gov.uk – Taking sick leave

Age UK – Age related conditions, illnesses and diseases

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Is it worth getting critical illness insurance?

The main benefit of critical illness insurance is that it pays out a lump sum if you become seriously ill to help support you and your family financially. The benefit payment can be used to pay your mortgage, rent, and other regular household bills.

Critical illness claims include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Usually, you would be unable to work for at least several months or even years, if you became seriously ill. Critical illness cover allows you to recover properly without having to worry about your finances and making sure that your family don’t suffer.

What are the 36 critical illnesses?

People looking for critical illness insurance are often concerned about whether it will pay out for all illnesses. Obviously critical illness insurance won’t pay out for absolutely everything, but it is specifically designed to pay out for the most common conditions. There are several key conditions on the list and then 36 main critical illnesses that are usually covered.

The following are widely considered the main 36 critical illnesses:

1. Cancer19. Hepatitis (Fulminant Viral)
2. Heart Attack20. Coronary Artery Disease
3. Stroke21. Encephalitis
4. Kidney Failure22. Head Trauma
5. Multiple Sclerosis23. Medullary Cystic Disease
6. Parkinson’s Disease24. Brain Surgery
7. Alzheimer’s Disease25. Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
8. Brain Tumour (Benign)26. Lung Disease (end-stage)
9. Paralysis (limbs)27. Surgery of the Aorta
10. Muscular Dystrophy28. Terminal Illness
11. Third Degree Burns29. Loss of Independence
12. HIV30. Major Organ Transplant
13. Cardiomyopathy31. Primary Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
14. Loss of Speech32. Severe Coronary Artery Disease
15. Chronic Aplastic Anaemia33. Heart Valve Surgery
16. Blindness (Permanent)34. Angioplasty
17. Bacterial Meningitis35. Coma
18. Liver Failure (end-stage)36. Deafness (Permanent)

Most of the modern critical illness insurance policies will cover somewhere between 40 and 80 different conditions. There are some other policies such as Vitality Serious Illness Cover that offers up to around 180 different conditions.

Is it worth getting critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover is specifically designed to protect you and your family against potentially serious financial difficulty due to diagnosis of a critical condition (e.g. cancer, heart attack, stroke, MS etc.). Everyone is different and your attitude towards the risks of serious illness is entirely up to your own personal preference.

Some consumers feel that life insurance and critical illness cover are absolutely essential because they want to protect their family or property. Usually, this might be based on either personal experience or something that has affected a family member or even a friend.

If you’ve seen the impacts of financial loss through a loved one then you might be more inclined to take out critical illness cover. This type of policy is always cheaper for younger people and for those who are in good health, so it’s advisable to try to get some cover in place sooner than later.

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Is critical illness insurance worth it? - iam|INSURED

How much does critical illness cover cost UK?

The cost of critical illness cover is based on the amount of cover that you want and your individual circumstances (e.g. age, health, smoker status etc.). You will also find that the prices and quality of cover will vary dramatically from one insurance provider to another.

Below we have examples of critical illness cover premiums based on age, to show how much premiums can change if you take a policy out when you’re older.

Critical illness cover - £50,000 over 25 years (non-smoker)

Age  Level term critical illness cover (family protection)Decreasing term critical illness cover (mortgage protection)
25£8.78£6.59
30£11.21£8.64
35£15.79£11.56
40£22.87£16.21
45£33.62£23.54

As you can see from the table above, the cost of critical illness cover changes as you get older, and it’s often far cheaper than people think.

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Average cost of critical illness cover UK - iam|INSURED

Can I get critical illness cover on its own?

The simple answer is ‘YES’ you can absolutely get critical illness cover on its own, and this is becoming more popular as policies become more flexible. This is also known as ‘standalone critical illness cover’ and basically means that you haven’t got life insurance attached to it.

Standalone critical illness cover will only pay out for serious or critical illnesses and won’t pay out on death. Some common reasons why people opt for taking critical illness cover without life insurance are:

  • Already have life insurance either personally or through work
  • Don’t need life insurance (e.g. no children or dependents)
  • Want to take out extra critical illness cover
  • Personal preference

There are many reasons why you might want standalone critical illness cover and ultimately it’s completely your decision.

What does Martin Lewis say about critical illness cover?

Martin Lewis’s advice for critical illness cover on MoneySavingExpert suggests that they don’t particularly believe in this type of cover. While this might seem reasonable to some consumers, if you accept this advice and then have a serious illness yourself, you might not be quite as grateful for his insight.

We understand that Martin Lewis is entitled to his opinion and you should remember that this is the opinion of a financial journalist and not financial advice. Having personally seen hundreds, if not thousands of claims for critical illness, I find it difficult to understand how this opinion can be so broad.

It is up to you to decide which cover is best for you and for your family, so we strongly suggest that you consider all angles before you make your final decision.

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