The percentage of people using private healthcare is increasing each year; with the NHS battling with strained resources it could be a better option for many. Not only will your treatment time be a lot quicker, but the private sector has access to a much wider range of resources. But, what should and shouldn’t you visit your private GP for? Here we explain which ailments can be treated by your GP, and those which should be assessed by alternative medical assistance.

What’s the difference between an NHS GP and private GP services?

The major difference between the two services is that access to NHS GPs and health services are free, whereas private GP’s work in independent hospitals and clinics which require a membership or one off payment. Often, private health care is a perk that you can access through your employer, but it can be a worthwhile investment if you choose to sign up yourself.

The overall service that you receive before, during and after your appointment is generally a lot more efficient in private healthcare. Your initial wait time to book an appointment with the doctor will be significantly reduced when arranged through private healthcare. Following this, you will be a lot less restricted with time during your appointment, meaning you can have a thorough chat with your GP without feeling rushed or a nuisance. Although GPs of both sectors will be fully qualified, if they identify a medical problem which requires a specialist, private GPs often work in clinics or hospitals which have these departments readily available so a referral can be arranged a lot sooner. Private clinics and hospitals will have better resources, less crowding, nicer hospital rooms and more attentive staff.

When to visit a private medical centre?

You can visit your private GP for regular ailments as you would through the NHS. However, if your issue is more complicated you could be facing a long wait as you’re added to the queue with everyone else. Duality Health can help you with a whole range of problems, but are also willing to provide additional services on a case by case basis or recommend the best course of action for you.

  • General health concerns: whether you’ve been suffering from a persistent cough or tummy troubles your GP can help. In the instance that you have more than one ailment, many NHS clinics have restrictions in place which state that you must book a separate appointment for each issue. This can be a long winded process, and it can be difficult to assess the severity of each problem to know what needs treating first. Private services however are a lot more flexible, and the close relationship with your GP means they will have a better idea of your medical background without you having to repeat it each time.
  • Wellbeing advice: one of the main areas of concern within the NHS is the lack of mental health and wellbeing services available. Many people are left waiting for months to receive counselling, and during this time symptoms often deteriorate. Mental health charity Mind states that the most common type of treatment for mental health problems is medication. This has become a frustration amongst those seeking help as the prescription of drugs can often feel like a quick fix, when many people would prefer alternative therapy. But, due to the long waiting time medication may be accepted if patients are desperate for help; an unhealthy and unfair cycle. Alternatively, seeking mental health advice in a private health clinic has a much quicker turnaround. Being able to address the issue immediately will have a major effect on finding the right treatment, and getting you back on track to a healthy life.
  • Muscle and joint injuries: there are many types of muscle and joint injuries that you can incur, but the most common include wrists, shoulders, ankles and knees. These areas can swell leaving you in pain and immobile. If you regularly take part in sports, then using a private clinic could be a great option for you, especially if you have a history of repeat injuries -leaving them can make it worse
  • Wounds, dressing care and infections: if you have an open wound then it’s essential that it’s cared for properly to prevent infection and speed up healing time; infections can lead to much more serious issues. Dressing needs to be changed regularly to keep wounds dry and hygienic, signs that your cut is infected include itching, burning, redness, swelling and heat.

When to call 999 or visit A&E

If you’re a member of a private clinic, or have received one off treatment then you’ll be aware of the vast range of services that they can offer. But, there are some instances when you should seek other forms of medical help. Emergency situations, broken bones and dental problems to name a few; these problems either need to be seen immediately or simply cannot be treated by your GP. Attending the wrong medical service could put you at risk of delaying your treatment and consequently lead to further issues. If you experience a non-life-threatening emergency, but want some quick advice, or a second opinion, consider speaking to a pharmacist or calling 111. Medical emergencies can include:

  • Life threatening illnesses: if you or a loved one are showing symptoms of a serious illness such as a stroke or heart attack, do not go to your GP. Always call 999 as they will have the quickest response when your life is at risk.
  • Broken limbs: if the break is small or the bone is only partially cracked then you may not experience any pain, or even realise that the area is broken. But, you should still seek medical assistance as soon as possible by going to your local minor injury unit or urgent care centre. For broken arms or legs you should go to A&E, and for very severe breaks in your neck or back call 999. To treat a broken bone it must be assessed quickly via an x-ray, re-aligned and perhaps secured in a plaster cast; major breaks may even require surgery. Failure to receive the correct treatment could lead to permanent damage or long term problems with the area.
  • Dental issues: According to the British Dental Association more than 600,000 people every year are visiting their GP for dental related problems. That’s 11,000 appointments per week being lost due to people visiting the wrong medical service. Although your oral health can be related to other medical issues that GPs can help with, for the majority of dental problems GPs are not trained to deal with these issues especially when they require invasive treatment. Instead, always book an appointment with your dentist, and for more urgent issues arrange an emergency appointment with them.
  • Severe burns: a burn to the skin can cause serious damage and scarring. Before assessing where to go, you should apply first aid techniques to limit the amount of damage to yourself or the person who’s been hurt. If you can, douse the flames with water or smother them with a blanket, remove clothing and jewellery near the burn but do not pull off anything stuck to the burn itself, cool the area down with cool water as soon as possible, keep yourself or the injured person warm (hypothermia is a risk if you’re cooling down a large burn) and finally cover the burn with cling film. Once you have completed this you can then decided where to go for treatment. A&E is usually the best place to go for large or deep burns, or for those of a vulnerable age.
  • Heavy bleeding: if someone’s bleeding isn’t controlled quickly they can end up losing a lot of blood and their body can go into shock. If available, wear gloves to prevent infection and apply pressure to the area until clean dressing is available. If there’s an object in the wound do not pull it out, this may be acting as a plug to stem the bleeding. Large wounds may require stitches which can be done in A&E, however, if the person has started to go into shock call 999 for urgent help.
  • Emergency contraception: if you are in need of emergency contraception it’s best to visit a family planning clinic, sexual health centre, walk-in centre or pharmacy. Many of these services will offer free contraception for those under 25 in a confidential manner. However, you should still have regular contact with your GP to set up a repeat prescription, or to periodically discuss your contraceptive options.

Duality Health: your private GP and medical service

If you’re wondering, how do I find a private doctor near me? then Duality Health is available for those living in and around the areas of Newry and Dungannon, Northern Ireland.

We aim to provide access to the best private GPs and medical services we can. Offering evening and weekend appointments we can work around your schedule without you having to take time off of work. Get in touch today to find out more about our work, and how you can become a member.