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        0808 189 0463

        Updated: April 23, 2024

        Critical Illness Cover

        The key information you need about critical illness cover across a range of useful guides

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        We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with brokers who are experts in critical illness cover. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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        No impact on your credit score

        We work with advisors who are experts on critical illness insurance and they can help you find the policy that’s right for your needs and circumstances.

        In this article, we’ll be covering topics including:

        Once you’ve read through the details below, if you’d like to know more about why you should consider  critical illness cover, call us on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry and we can arrange for an advisor we work with to speak with you.

        What is critical illness insurance?

        Critical illness insurance (or critical illness cover as it is also known) is designed to provide financial protection upon diagnosis of a specific illness, medical condition or disability specified within the policy.

        In the event of a claim, a critical illness insurance policy will provide a tax-free lump sum (defined at the outset) to the policyholder who can then use these funds as they wish.

        In light of the circumstances, the money received from critical illness cover is typically used to supplement income, pay off outstanding debts, cover financial outgoings or pay for any alterations needed to your home (wheelchair access, for example).

        A policy will only usually pay out once in the event of a claim during the term and then cease.

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        How does critical illness insurance work?

        Most insurers offer critical illness cover on a set term basis for a specified number of years, although a few specialist providers offer this type of insurance for ‘whole of life’ policies.

        Each provider, using their own internal actuarial rates, will calculate a monthly premium for the amount of cover (sum assured) and term you require based on:

        • Age
        • Gender
        • Health and medical record
        • Lifestyle (alcohol consumption, smoker/non-smoker)
        • Occupation (some are considered more risky than others)

        Examples of critical illnesses

        The definition of what constitutes a critical illness will vary depending on the insurance provider, however, in general all policies will cover the following:

        Certain types of these illnesses may not be covered or, depending on who you have critical illness cover with, different definitions may apply. Therefore, it’s important you check the policy documents as soon as you’re able. Insurance experts (like those we work with) are used to scanning these documents, so to be on the safe side, they could check it for you.

        Other illnesses and conditions which you may typically find covered by critical illness insurance may include:

        • Total permanent disability
        • Loss of speech
        • Liver or kidney failure
        • Coronary artery bypass surgery
        • Loss of limbs
        • Multiple sclerosis
        • Alzheimer’s
        • Loss of sight or hearing
        • Motor neuron disease
        • Serious brain injury
        • Third degree burns
        • Paralysis

        If you’d like to know more about the wide variety of conditions covered by different providers, make an enquiry and we can arrange for an expert to talk to you in more detail.

        Why do I need critical illness cover?

        Everyone’s personal circumstances are different and, therefore, our ‘needs’ for critical illness cover may vary.

        However, if a long-term illness would place an unexpected financial strain on you and your family, then this type of cover would provide peace of mind.

        It may be worth considering these questions:

        • How will my mortgage be paid if I suffer a critical illness?
        • Are my existing provisions, from my employer, the state and savings, sufficient to cover my financial obligations for an indefinite period?
        • Would my dependents be able to look after themselves if I was incapacitated due to illness or would they need support?

        Once you’ve considered these points, the ‘need’ may become more apparent. If so, get in touch with us and we can arrange for a specialist to contact you and discuss how critical illness cover could protect your finances if such a scenario were to occur.

        Do I need critical illness cover for my mortgage?

        Not ‘need’ as such, but most mortgage experts would highly recommend including critical illness cover with any insurance policy linked to what is typically the largest financial outgoing for a household.

        If you were to suffer a critical illness, it would be some comfort to know that your mortgage commitment would be taken care of.

        Do I need critical illness cover and income protection?

        Yes, this is usually recommended. Income protection policies are designed to pay a percentage of your income for a set period if you’re unable to work due to sickness or injury and can cater for more than one claim, whereas critical illness insurance would provide a one-off lump sum payment.

        The illnesses covered by a critical illness insurance plan are normally quite explicitly explained, whereas income protection plans are usually much broader in their definition.

        For example, if you suffered a broken leg and were unable to work for a few months, an income protection plan could cover this eventuality whereas a critical illness plan would not. If you’d like to speak with an insurance expert about the different types of cover available, make an enquiry with us and we can arrange for someone to get in touch.

        Critical illness cover vs. life cover

        Any expert will tell you that you never want to be over- or under-insured. After all, critical illness and life insurance premiums can vary across the market; so it’s worth understanding the complementary role they can play in order to arrange your insurances as sensibly and affordably as possible.

        Critical illness insurance pays out on the diagnosis of any serious conditions covered by your policy. However, most life insurance policies will also pay out upon the diagnosis of a serious illness that doctors say is likely to lead to your death within the next 12 months.

        So if you already have life insurance, you need to bear in mind that critical illness cover is complementary to this.

        For example, you might be able to recover from a serious but not fatal illness in 12 months: so taking out an amount of cover that would pay for all of your outgoings for a year might be the most cost-effective way to use critical illness insurance, as long as you have life cover too.

        After all, in the event that a serious illness is thought likely to result in your death within 12 months, you might be entitled to receive that lump sum from your life cover in addition to any lump sum from a critical illness policy.

        That’s why expert advice is so important: as you need to understand what sort of financial support you and any dependents would need in a range of scenarios, and take out the right blend of critical illness and Life cover to make them as effective – and cost-effective – as possible.

        Critical illness cover vs. income protection

        In addition to taking the role of life insurance into account, it’s also worth weighing the benefits of critical illness insurance and income protection.

        There are two types of income protection that can help if you’re unable to work due to illness or injury:

        • Income protection: Previously known as permanent health insurance – which carries on paying you a monthly sum until you can return to work, or retire
        • Short-term income protection: A lower-cost alternative – which pays you a monthly sum related to your regular income, but only for a limited period, usually from two to five years

        Both of these options provide useful income in the event of an illness that leaves you unable to return to work. The main difference between these policies and critical illness insurance is that they pay out an income-related amount on a monthly basis, as opposed to a lump sum.

        Critical illness insurance and income protection are also popular with people who are self-employed, or who run a business and can offer real peace of mind.

        Whether you would prefer simple income protection or critical illness cover depends entirely on the type of protection your needs and circumstances call for, but you may well wish to talk to one of the experts we work with to help you decide which is right for your individual circumstances.

        Speak to a critical illness cover expert

        If you’re interested in critical illness cover and would like to speak with an expert in order to explore what options are available to you, call us today on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry online.


        It is not uncommon for a critical illness insurance application to be turned down by one provider but accepted by another. The first thing you need to do is to contact the provider and ascertain as much information as is possible as to why the application was declined.

        Rather than try and apply elsewhere, it would be more prudent to contact a professional advisor who can review your situation and offer advice as to other insurers in the market who may consider your application.

        If you get in touch with us, we can ask a specialist who is experienced in circumstances such as this and will be able to offer their assistance.

        Generally, critical illness cover starts from the moment the first premium is collected once all underwriting procedures have been completed.

        If you already have critical illness cover and become pregnant afterwards, then your cover will not be affected.

        If you are already pregnant and have applied for cover, it is not unusual for a provider to place your application on hold until your child has been born due to certain health risks, albeit rare, that are involved.

        There are a few providers who may accept the application once a thorough check of your medical records have concluded that your pregnancy is normal and healthy.

        If you make an enquiry we can put you in touch with an advisor we work with to discuss which insurers would be prepared to accept an application in such situations.

        Integrated critical illness cover is added on to a life insurance policy, running concurrently with the same level of cover. The insurance amount will pay out upon either death or diagnosis of a critical illness listed in the policy, whichever occurs first.

        An accelerated critical illness benefit is an option provided by some insurance providers. It is added to a standard life insurance policy and pays out upon diagnosis of a specific critical illness.

        For example, if you had a life policy with a sum assured of £200,000 and added accelerated critical illness for £100,000, upon diagnosis of a listed illness the provider would pay out £100,000 and a further £100,000 if you were to die at a later date during the term of the policy.

        NHS pensions offer a wide range of benefits for employees including life insurance equivalent to two years salary and a lump sum in the event of ill health. You may also qualify for early retirement due to ill health.

        For more information on the benefits of NHS pension schemes, get in touch with us and we’ll connect you with a specialist to discuss in more detail.

        Most providers offer this type of insurance as ‘pure cover’, which means it has no investment element attached or fixed period where the payments must be made. Therefore, you can cancel your critical illness cover at any time.

        Once you cancel your cover, the policy will lapse immediately.

        Even without a mortgage, if you’re struck down by a serious illness or sudden disability, critical illness cover can provide financial security during a difficult time in your life both for you and your family.

        For example, you can use these funds to finance any modifications you may need for your home or to cover any other financial outgoings you may have, providing vital support.

        Critical illness insurance can provide welcome financial support if you are diagnosed with a serious illness and require extensive medical assistance. Regardless of whether you have any dependants, this cover can provide welcome assistance during a lengthy period of recovery.

        Ask a quick question

        We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with brokers who are experts in critical illness cover. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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        Pete Mugleston

        Pete Mugleston

        Mortgage Expert, MD

        About the author

        Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

        Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

        FCA Disclaimer

        *Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us as well as any of our own are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

        Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.