In the UK, many of the healthcare services provided by the NHS are available to all legal residents free of charge. Despite this, there is a flourishing industry of private healthcare services that are used by thousands every year, offered by Private GPs all over the country. There are an estimated 515 private hospitals operating in the UK nationwide, all offering private healthcare services to patients. But what exactly is a private GP; what is the difference between a private GP and an NHS GP, and how can a health insurance policy help you benefit from this service?
Please note: the information presented in this blog is correct as of 10th May 2021, and has been sourced directly from the relevant health insurance providers and external information sources.
What is a private GP?
A private GP is very similar to a regular NHS GP regarding the types of services provided. As a general practitioner, the work of a private GP is to offer diagnostics and treatment for illnesses, conditions and states of health ranging from the acute to the chronic, in the form of check-ups and appointments. The main difference between a private GP and an NHS GP is that private GPs may work in independent, private hospitals and clinics that will either require a membership or a one-off payment to access. As well as this, healthcare from private GP services is often a perk that can be accessed through employer business health insurance schemes, or through an individual private health insurance policy.
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The key benefits of a private GP
While private healthcare is a service that often requires additional payments, as opposed to the free NHS GP service, there are a variety of clear, distinct benefits to using a private GP for your healthcare needs.
Speed of service
One of the most prominent advantages that many private GPs have is the relative speed of the service. Some private GPs offer virtual and same-day appointments, whereas 29% of NHS patients waited for over 6 weeks to receive diagnostic tests in December 2020. This means that through private GP services, you may experience faster access to treatment in comparison to the public healthcare option.
When accessing private GP services through an insurance provider, the speed of service becomes even more pronounced. AXA, one of the many private health insurance providers that we work with, enables this through their Fast Track Appointments service. This service can give patients and policyholders instant access to GPs, consultants and quality treatment options when an Out-Patient option is included in the plan. Plus, with providers like Bupa, you will often find that you can call them directly for swift advice and treatment for acute issues, mental health troubles or cancer support whenever you need it.
Efficiency of the service
While a private GP may present a quicker route to getting the healthcare services you need, it may also be a more efficient method too. With access to highly qualified specialists and consultants, referrals may be much faster, with a quicker turnaround time for test results. You can potentially see a private GP in the morning and expect to have a complete examination and many of the necessary answers by the afternoon. This means that the services offered are incredibly efficient, providing you with the solutions you need as quickly as possible.
Bupa enables this efficiency of service further through easy access to their digital GP service. Their virtual GP app gives you 24/7 access to qualified GPs through the click of a button from the comfort of your own home. This means you can skip the frustrating waiting times for your appointments and get the healthcare you need straight away.
For more information on these kinds of Virtual Healthcare solutions offered by many of our providers, you can read our blog on Telemedicine and Health Insurance.
Flexibility of service
When seeing a private GP, you may also notice a greater degree of flexibility in how your appointments are accessed, carried out and delivered. NHS GPs may sometimes be limited to the time slots they have available consultations. With a private GP, you may have a much easier time accessing these healthcare services, with appointment slots often open and available at early mornings, lunchtimes and weekends.
With a provider like Vitality, you can see how flexible the services offered by private GPs can be through their Virtual GP app. Included in their core health insurance policies, this app lets you book video consultations online with private GPs, including time slots such as evenings and Saturday mornings. You may also be referred straight to a consultant, with up to £100 put towards private prescriptions and minor diagnostic tests.
Longer appointments & consultations
When booking an appointment with a private GP, you may find that you have much longer to discuss your issues than with an NHS GP. Private GPs may offer consultation times ranging from around thirty minutes to as long as an hour, giving you plenty of time to address all of your concerns and to be clinically examined, and even referred to a specialist if required. You may find that having more time during diagnosis results in a clearer understanding of your healthcare needs.
Bespoke healthcare solutions
When using a private GP, you may experience a greater level of choice in crafting your own bespoke healthcare services. As well as the extended appointment times and flexible appointment locations, as a patient, you may have a much broader choice of GPs at a practice regarding who you would prefer to be seen by. Another aspect of this in the private sector is the ability to see the same doctor on repeat visits should you want to, allowing you to enhance both the personal experience and the quality of care you receive. You may not have these options when visiting a regular NHS GP.
With a Vitality Health Insurance policy, you can use their Consultant Select service to get quick and convenient access to the type of treatment that you want. The service works by taking your referral from your NHS or private GP and passing the details on to Alliance Health Group, the UK’s largest independent healthcare group owned by doctors. Based entirely on your specific medical needs, they will aim to find the best consultant for you. And with Vitality’s Patient Charter, you can easily change consultants to find the right one for you and your healthcare needs should this be needed, giving you complete control over your bespoke healthcare solutions.
Accessing private GPs through health insurance
A private health insurance policy is one of the most common ways that people in the UK access private healthcare, either through a workplace insurance policy or as an individual. If you access private GP services through a health insurance policy, you gain access to not only the very best in private healthcare, but a whole host of exclusive benefits and rewards, depending on the insurance provider you opt for. To learn more about some of the health insurance providers that we at Equity Health work with, you can visit our insurance providers page.
With this article, we hope to have outlined the basics of what a private GP is, the benefits, and how you can access this service through health insurance. Working as an independent health insurance broker, we help individuals, families and businesses to compare their health insurance options, offering unbiased advice. If you’d like to access private GP services via health insurance, contact us, and we’ll answer your questions and help you get started.
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