Is it worth seeing a private GP?

Every day you read or hear horror stories in the press about the lack of NHS appointments. For this reason, you might consider seeing a private GP for your own peace of mind, but is it worth doing?  The lack of GP appointments is frustrating and caused by a number of factors, with the arrival of Covid across the globe certainly not helping, but, frustratingly for the NHS, the number of missed appointments also plays a part.

Seeing a private GP via mobile app

If you have a private medical insurance policy, then you are likely to have access to a GP via a mobile app. Seeing a GP has become easier than ever if you are happy to use an online service. Remote GPs are all qualified and registered. Appointments are available 24/7, in most cases, and therefore available for you when you need to see a doctor. If you need to be referred to a consultant or specialist, then the private GP will be able to do this for you. You will not need to see your NHS GP for a referral onto a specialist.

Visiting a private GP face to face

Private GP appointments are available to you on a self-fund basis. Some health insurance providers in the UK do offer add-on benefits where you can make a claim for seeing a private GP. They do not have access to your NHS records, however, so if you have complex medical history and medication issues that you want to discuss, then you may wish to request a copy of your GP records for reference.

Why are people choosing to see a private GP?

There are a number of private GP networks available across the UK. Using a private GP will vary in cost, depending on the length of the time you book and from practice to practice.

As an example, here in Chelmsford we have a well-established private GP practice running out of the Springfield Hospital (part of Ramsey Health Care). There are seven GPs to choose from and this is the largest private GP service in Essex.

The services you can access include:

  • Same day appointments (evening appointments available)
  • Appointment length choice of 15 or 30 minutes
  • Travel medication services
  • Homeopathy
  • Acupuncture
  • Flu vaccinations
  • Health assessments

Other options available include Bupa private GP services – they offer remote services UK- wide and have face to face appointments available in Reading, Bristol, Crossrail and the West End. Appointments are available at different time lengths:

  • 15 minutes @ £79
  • 30 minutes @ £140
  • 45 minutes @ £200
  • 60 minutes @ £250

Having more time available to discuss your medical issues, whether mental or physical health, can make all the difference.

We are lucky to have our NHS services, however, with the time limitations faced by NHS GPs, sometimes this element alone means that seeing a private GP is a preferrable option.

Can they prescribe medication?

Yes, a private GP can provide a private prescription or refer you for diagnostic testing.

Even if you can claim for your appointment via your health insurance policy, it is unlikely that your insurer will pay for your private prescription or pre-authorise GP-referred diagnostic testing. The price for your prescription is not subsidised by the NHS and you would have to pay the total amount, regardless of whether you are eligible for free prescriptions on the NHS.

If you need to have diagnostic tests and want to claim for them, they should be requested by a specialist/consultant. Of course, if you choose to self-fund your diagnostic tests, you can proceed on a GP referral.

Can you revert back to the NHS after seeing a private GP?

Absolutely! You are still registered with the NHS.

If you see your private GP, then opt to go back to your NHS practice, there is no restriction. Your private GP and NHS GP will not automatically share medical records. It is advisable to provide a private GP with authorisation to send any information to your NHS GP, so it is held on your medical records for the future.