1. Introduction
  2. Regulation
  3. What to consider
  4. If things go wrong
  5. More information
  6. Please feedback on how helpful the information on this page is
  7. Contact us


Private healthcare is run separately to the NHS. It is provided by:

  • The independent sector
  • Private patient units within NHS premises.

You are responsible for fees. This might mean you pay for it yourself or claim through medical insurance or a workplace health scheme.

In most cases you will be referred by your GP for private treatment. NHS guidance says it is good practice to be referred by your GP. You can self-refer for some treatments and you will need to check directly with the private hospital if you wanted to refer yourself.

You are still entitled to free NHS care if you choose to pay for private care. More information is available at

The independent sector

These hospitals and clinics are normally run by a company. Some may be run by charities or not-for-profit organisations.

You can usually choose where you are treated. Prices and facilities will vary.

Private patient units

These are separate rooms or wards within NHS hospitals which are only used for private patients.

Independent Healthcare Providers Network

The Patients Association worked with the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) to offer advice on what patients should expect from independent healthcare. Further details can be found here.


Check that the company that runs the hospital or unit where you will get treatment has been assessed by the relevant regulator. Different groups of professionals or organisations are regulated by the following regulators.


General Medical Council, 0161 923 6602,


General Dental Council, 0207 167 6000,


Care Quality Commission, 03000 616 161,

Nurses and midwives

Nursing and Midwifery Council, 020 7637 7181,


General Optical Council, 020 7580 3898,

Health and care professionals

Health and Care Professions Council, 0300 500 6184,

For services which fall outside of regulators above check

What to consider

Below is a checklist to help you choose a private healthcare provider.

  • Check how they compare with other services by searching on the Private Healthcare Information Network
  • Find out if they subscribe to the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) – This is important should you have cause to complain about your treatment in the private sector.
  • Discuss treatment options with your GP
  • Check you have funding or insurance to cover the treatment cost and any unexpected costs. For example, having to stay in hospital longer than expected or unexpected tests
  • Make sure you understand the charging process
  • Research average charges for your treatment
  • Find out what the arrangements are in case of emergency
  • Find out what to do if things go wrong
  • Find out about aftercare and who is responsible.

If things go wrong

The Independent Healthcare Sector Complaints and Adjudication Service (ISCAS) has a three-step complaints process.

It has produced an online guide explaining how to make a complaint at

This can only be used if your private healthcare provider subscribes to ISCAS.

Which? provides information about what to do if you are unhappy about the care you receive. This is online at

Further advice is available in our information about Making a complaint.

If you have a dispute over charges you can contact Citizens Advice –

More information

Useful websites and links

What to expect from private healthcare - advice from the Independent Healthcare Provider Network – healthcare help and advice in England – foreign travel advice if you are thinking of getting private healthcare abroad – advice on private healthcare complaints in Scotland – healthcare help and advice in Wales – private healthcare adjudication – advice on good practice and getting private healthcare abroad – Unbiased information to help you make informed private healthcare decisions – information on accredited practitioners – healthcare help and advice in Northern Ireland – consumer advice and support


Source material for the information contained in this leaflet is available on request.

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Couldn’t find what you were looking for? Our team might be able to help - details of how to contact them below.

Contact the Patients Association helpline

The Patients Association offers a free national helpline providing specialist information and advice to help patients make sense of their health and social care.  

Patients can talk directly to a member of our helpline team in strict confidence about any concerns, questions or general experiences they have regarding the NHS and care systems.  

The helpline is open from 9.30 am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and calls outside these times are returned as soon as possible during opening hours. 

If you would like to contact the helpline, please call free on 0800 345 7115, or visit the Patients Association helpline page on our website for more information. 

This page was updated on 25th March 2024 and will be reviewed in March 2026.