Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Regulation
  3. What to consider
  4. If things go wrong
  5. More information

Introduction 

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

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.

You still pay if you are treated in these units. However, the money goes towards the hospital rather than a private company.

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.

Regulation

Check your provider has been assessed by the relevant regulator. Different groups of professionals or organisations are regulated by the following regulators.

Doctors

General Medical Council, 0161 923 6602, gmc-uk.org.

Dentists

General Dental Council, 0207 167 6000, gdc-uk.org.

Hospitals

Care Quality Commission, 03000 616 161, cqc.org.uk.

Nurses and midwives

Nursing and Midwifery Council, 020 7637 7181, nmc.org.uk.

Opticians

General Optical Council, 020 7580 3898, optical.org.

Health and care professionals

Health and Care Professions Council, 0300 500 6184, hcpc-uk.org

For services which fall outside of regulators above check professionalstandards.org.uk.

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) – cedr.com
  • 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 iscas.cedr.com.

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 which.co.uk/consumer-rights/health.

Further advice is available in our leaflet Making a complaint.

If you have a dispute over charges you can contact Citizens Advice – citizensadvice.org.uk.

More information

Useful websites and links

what to expect from private healthcare - advice from the Independent Healthcare Provider Network

cqc.org.uk – healthcare help and advice in England

gov.uk – foreign travel advice if you are thinking of getting private healthcare abroad

healthcareimprovementscotland.org – advice on private healthcare complaints in Scotland

hiw.org.uk – healthcare help and advice in Wales

iscas.cedr.com – private healthcare adjudication

nhs.uk – advice on good practice and getting private healthcare abroad

professionalstandards.org.uk – information on accredited practitioners

rqia.org.uk – healthcare help and advice in Northern Ireland

which.co.uk – consumer advice and support

Sources

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

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 trained advisers in strict confidence about any concerns, questions or general experiences they have regarding the NHS and social 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.