If I pay for private treatment, how will my NHS care be affected?

You're still entitled to free NHS care if you choose to pay for additional private care.

Guidance for NHS patients

The Department of Health has published guidance for NHS patients who pay for additional private care (PDF, 126kb). The guidance says:

  • your NHS care will continue to be free of charge
  • you can't be asked to pay towards your NHS care, except where legislation allows charges, such as prescription charges
  • the NHS cannot pay for or subsidise your private hospital treatment
  • there must be a clear a separation as possible between your private treatment and your NHS treatment
  • your position on a NHS waiting list should not be affected if you choose to have a private consultation

What does 'a clear a separation as possible' mean?

The guidelines state you should receive your private care at a different time and place from your NHS care whenever possible.

This means private care should ideally be provided in a separate building to NHS care or, if an NHS organisation also provides private care:

  • in a private room
  • in a different part of the building, or
  • at a clinic run after NHS hours

Occasionally, a patient's doctor may agree they can receive their NHS and private treatment in the same place – for example, if the doctor decides the patient is too ill to be moved.

Receiving private and NHS care at the same time

If you're receiving private and NHS care for the same condition, your NHS and private treatment can be supervised by one healthcare team.

You cannot choose to mix different parts of the same treatment between NHS and private care. For example, you cannot have a cataract operation on the NHS and pay privately for special lens implants that are normally only available as part of private care.

Instead, you either have to have both the operation on the NHS and standard NHS lens implants, or pay for both the operation and implants privately.

You shouldn't need to have any of the same tests twice – for example, to diagnose or monitor your condition. In this case, the test will probably be part of your NHS care and the result will be shared with your private care provider if necessary.

What treatments can my doctor tell me about?

Your doctor will tell you about all the treatments for your condition, including any that are only available privately.

If you want to know whether your doctor can treat you privately, you will need to ask directly. They can then tell you about the private services they offer – for example, cancer medicines or other medicines not funded through the NHS.

What if I have complications?

Your private healthcare provider will normally treat any non-emergency complications that result from the private part of your care – for example, you might have side effects that need extra treatment.

You'll need to pay for this treatment yourself. However, the NHS should never refuse to treat patients because the cause of the complication is unclear, and should treat any patient in an emergency.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 12/04/2016

Next review due: 12/04/2018