At Duality Health, we often get asked a lot of questions about private healthcare. As the National Health Service (NHS) has reached crisis point, many people are turning to private healthcare to ensure that they have fast access to consultants and specialist treatments. You may find yourself waiting weeks, even months, for treatment and, in the evenings or on weekends, it is near impossible to be seen by a GP in a timely fashion – even in an emergency. Due to the constantly increasing patient volume and demand, doctors have less time to give and patients are waiting longer and longer to see a medical professional. 

Private healthcare is an ideal option for those who are in a position to pay for their medical treatment in order to avoid long queues, see consultants at times that are convenient for them and have access to specialist treatments and services that may not be available on the NHS. Below we answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about private healthcare. 

If I use private GP services, am I still entitled to NHS treatment?

It is a common misconception that when you use a private GP, you are no longer entitled to use the NHS. You are still entitled to free NHS care if you choose to pay for additional private care. When you choose a private healthcare service, you pay for your consultation, procedure and prescription. If you are an NHS patient, private GPs can refer you for the full range of NHS investigations and secondary care facilities. 

Do I need a GP referral for private treatment?

You can receive private treatment from a specialist or consultant without being referred by your GP. The British Medical Association does, however, believe that it is best practice for patients to be referred for private or specialist treatment by their GP. The reason for this is because your GP is aware of your medical situation and is therefore in the best position to advise you on whether a referral is necessary or not. Many private practitioners require a referral. 

How do I get a referral from my GP?

If your GP thinks that you require a specialist and you are happy to pay for this service privately, your GP can write a letter of referral to a private specialist or consultant. This letter should explain your medical history and your condition; you will not be charged for this. 

If you are feeling unwell or have been suffering from any symptoms, you should see your GP to discuss whether you may need specialist treatment. If your GP does not believe that you require specialist treatment, they do not have to refer you. 

How do I find a private doctors near me?

You can speak to your GP about accessing private healthcare near you. There are also tools that you can use online to help you find a health professional near you. 

Why should I choose private healthcare?

There are a number of different reasons why people choose to go private when it comes to their healthcare. Private healthcare offers faster appointments and treatment, as well as the luxury to choose a consultant along with where you receive your treatment. Many patients prefer to choose a consultant for their entire treatment and after-care process. In addition to this, private healthcare centres typically include services and treatments that are unavailable on the NHS and offer access to the best advice, treatment and equipment. Private hospital treatments are carried out in private and comfortable rooms with the luxury of services such as menu choices and a television. 

What is private medical insurance and do I need it?

While most UK residents are entitled to free healthcare from the NHS, taking out private health insurance helps to pay for all (or some) of your medical bills if you are treated privately. You do not need to take out private health insurance, however, if you do not want to use the NHS, it may be difficult to pay for private treatment – something which private health insurance helps with. You should take out private health insurance if you would prefer not to wait for NHS treatment, if you would prefer to use a private hospital or if you want to be covered for treatment and drugs that you cannot get on the NHS (such as specialist treatments for sports-related injuries).

How does health insurance work? 

If you have private health insurance, arranging fast private treatment is easy. If you feel that something is wrong with your health, visit your GP and inform them that you have private health insurance. If you do require treatment, your GP can then refer you to a specialist in the area that you need, at a private hospital of your choice. You must then tell your insurance company that you would like to make a claim on your policy and confirm your cover. Once this has been approved, an appointment will be booked by your GP with the specialist. This will then be paid by your insurer. 

Do I need private medical insurance to go to a private medical centre?

If you do not have private medical insurance, you can still get private hospital treatment as a ‘self paying’ patient, which means that you simply pay for your treatment yourself upfront by cash or credit card. This is typically before or on admission to the hospital. Self paying for private healthcare can be an ideal option for those who are unable to get health insurance cover for a pre-existing condition. Some local private hospitals and healthcare centres offer payment schemes to help you spread the cost of treatment. 

Questions to consider when taking out private healthcare insurance 

  • What is your budget? There are lots of different health insurance policies available, depending on the level of cover that you want and your budget. Generally, the more circumstances that you want your insurance to cover, the more expensive the policy. This is why it is best to discuss your budget and requirements with an adviser. 
  • Does your workplace offer private medical insurance as an employee benefit? Some companies actually offer health insurance as an employee benefit. Even if the medical insurance is part of a ‘voluntary plan’ (and your employer does not pay for it), the policy may still be offered at a lower rate. It is always worth asking. 
  • Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions? Your health insurance provider will need to know if you have a pre-existing medical condition. A pre-existing medical condition is a medical condition, illness or injury that existed before you took out your health insurance policy. They ask about this as providers need to assess the risk that you’ll have the same (or related) condition in the future. 

Duality Health in Newry and Dungannon 

Duality Health offers affordable, accessible private healthcare. With late night and weekend opening times, we provide unprecedented access from our clinics in Newry and Dungannon, delivering high quality General Practice, Out of Hours Care and Private Medical Services to individuals, families and corporate clients. 

If you find it difficult to access healthcare when you need it or feel that your concerns are not being met, Duality Health can offer you as much time as required with a clinician to ensure that your health concerns are properly discussed. We understand that there are huge amounts of pressure on GPs today, with most only being able to spend an average of 10 minutes with each patient. This is why, at Duality Health, we provide a relaxed and unhurried atmosphere in which you can discuss all of your needs in a private consultation. From this, we can advise you on the best specialist treatment. 

To learn more about our other services, visit our website or, to speak to one of our consultants, book an appointment today.