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How does private healthcare work?

Private healthcare is available for anyone who chooses to pay for their consultation or treatment or who has private healthcare insurance to cover the cost. Private healthcare is provided by an independent hospital or clinic which is not part of the NHS.

This video was produced by the Independent Healthcare Provider Network.

Why choose private healthcare?

Going private with your healthcare is a real investment, and one which is becoming more common in the UK. You may choose to invest in private healthcare for a range of reasons, including a need or desire to be seen as soon as possible. In fact, analysis by the BBC of data from the Private Healthcare Information Network has found that there were 69,000 self-funded treatments in the UK in the final three months of 2021. This is a 39% rise on the same period before the pandemic. You may also wish to choose a treatment option which is unavailable on the NHS.

In summary, benefits of private healthcare are:

  • Faster treatment
  • Choice of treatment
  • Choice of consultant
  • In some cases, consultations, diagnostics and treatment under one roof
  • In many cases, an opportunity to experience high-end healthcare facilities.

Your private healthcare journey

1. You may need a GP referral

Most patients can get private treatment after a referral from their NHS GP. Alternatively, you can opt to pay for a private GP consultation to be seen earlier.

Private hospitals or clinics may see patients without a referral; however, they may need to consult with your GP before providing treatment.

However, you may not need a GP referral if you would like to book a diagnostic scan or physiotherapy. This may differ between healthcare providers. At Healthshare, you can simply enquire today for MRI and ultrasound scans or physiotherapy.

2. Finding a consultant or receiving a recommendation

Typically, if you have been referred by a GP, they will recommend a suitable consultant for you. They will write a referral letter on your behalf.

Most private healthcare providers host a directory of consultants. You can typically search by location and speciality. View our consultants here.

At this stage, if you have private medical insurance, you will need to check that the consultant is covered by your policy. You will also need to get an authorisation reference from your insurer. If you’re unsure, you can contact your insurer to check.

3. Booking your appointment

One of the many benefits of private healthcare is a range of appointment slots to suit you, and the option to be seen sooner.

If you have private medical insurance, your insurance company can make an appointment with the consultant on your behalf.

If you are self-referring, you can call the private healthcare provider directly to make an appointment with a specific consultant. Read our guide on how to choose the right consultant for you.

To book an appointment at a Healthshare clinic directly, please complete our private enquiry form.

4. Diagnostic tests and scans

If you need any tests or scans, these may be booked in for before your initial consultation. Your GP may already know what tests you need or your consultant will advise you.

5. Attending your appointment

Your chosen healthcare provider should provide you with clear instructions of when and where to attend your appointment and what to expect from it. This is your opportunity to ask as many questions as you need to, so you can go away feeling well-informed and with a treatment plan.

Take time after your appointment to mull over the information your consultant provides and to decide on the best course of action for you.

6. Follow-up diagnostic scans

After your appointment, your consultant may recommend further diagnostic scans. If you have not yet undertaken any, it may be recommended to support with your diagnosis and recommended treatment plan.

7. Updating your GP

After your appointment and a diagnosis has been reached, along with a proposed treatment plan, your consultant will update your GP. Your consultant may also recommend a follow up appointment to discuss test or scan results.

8. Your treatment cost

At this point, the hospital can give you a fixed or all-inclusive price if treatment is needed. The price will include all aspects of your care.

9. Arranging your treatment

Should you choose to go ahead with treatment, the hospital will arrange your admission.

How to pay for your private healthcare

If you’re paying for yourself, you’ll usually pay the initial consultation fee directly to your consultant. The all-inclusive price should include fees for the consultant, hospital, anaesthetist, follow-up appointment and any outpatient physiotherapy that may be needed. The terms and conditions of payment will be provided.

With private health insurance, the insurance company will pay the invoice. However, any excess on the policy must be paid separately.