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

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

Guidance for NHS patients

In March 2009, the Department of Health published guidance for NHS patients who pay for additional private care. The guidance includes the key points below:

  • 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 Department of Health guidelines state that you should receive your private care at a different time and place to 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 that 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 are receiving private and NHS care for the same condition, your NHS and private treatment can be supervised by one healthcare team. However, you will receive private and NHS treatments separately when possible.

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 will have to either have both the operation on the NHS and a 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. Specialist NHS equipment, such as scanners, may be used for private patients, as long as this does not affect the care of NHS patients.

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.

However, NHS doctors aren’t allowed to actively advertise private services to NHS patients. If you want to know whether your doctor can treat you privately, you will need to ask. They can then tell you about the private services that 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. You’ll need to pay for this treatment yourself. For example, you might have side effects that need extra treatment.

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.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 27/03/2014

Next review due: 26/03/2016