Quite right, it is paid for due to contributions made the whole of one's working life by way of National Insurance, deductible from salaries at source by the employer. So if you are fortunate enough to never require surgery you do not get anything back, but of course if it is required, it is already paid for.<quoted text>I think the profit motive is one of the main differences. In most European countries the hospitals are owned and run by the government, so the cost to operate the hospital "is already paid for" and since it is from the people's taxes, no profits are expected, only break even. Also, since that cost is already covered, they don't see the need to charge individually for existing infrastructure. They only charge for the extra stuff specific to the patient and the treatment.
The downside is the long waiting lists for surgery in this country, many travel to India amongst other countries where they can get the surgery much cheaper almost immediate.