The NHS is increasing the options available to patients to help improve choice and give people more control over their own care. This can involve where you have your treatment and may include an option to use an independent hospital rather than an NHS one. For those unfamiliar with the healthcare system, this choice may seem a bit daunting. This guide is designed to help patients navigate the process of using independent healthcare providers using NHS funding.

When can I choose to go to a private hospital with NHS funding?
Choosing a private healthcare provider
Once you’ve chosen
After you’ve been treated by an independent healthcare provider

Using independent hospitals in this way, as part of your legal right to choose, does not cost you anything and may be an appropriate way to reduce your waiting time or for types of specialised care. It is important that you understand the process so that you receive the care you need while also helping the NHS to use its resources effectively.

The NHS covers all the costs of your treatment with a private hospital though NHS choice. You only pay for extra personal items, such as phone calls or newspapers, just as you would in an NHS hospital. 

When can I choose to go to a private hospital with NHS funding?

If a GP needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition, in most cases you have the legal right at referral to choose the hospital or service you'd like to go to.

This will include many private hospitals if they provide services to the NHS. It does not cost the NHS any more than a referral to an NHS hospital.

A private hospital might be closer, provide shorter waiting times, or be more convenient for you.

You can also choose a clinical team led by a consultant or named healthcare professional, as long as that team provides the treatment you require. You can find out more about your choices for a hospital or consultant and choosing a mental health service on the NHS website.

Some people are not eligible to be referred to independent hospitals or treatments may not be available at your closest private hospital.   

Choosing a private healthcare provider

The PHIN website is designed to help people considering using independent hospitals and consultants to make more informed decisions. This applies to NHS-funded patients too.

You can view hospital and consultant profiles by entering a location and a specialty or procedure.

These profile provide information that can help you decide whether going to an independent sector is right for you. They include information on hospital ratings (from the national regulator), about the number of people admitted to the hospital and its facilities. 

The consultant profiles include the number of different procedures they have undertaken and a measure of patient satisfaction, as well as other information useful for making an informed choice. 

For more details on how the PHIN website can help you, see our guide: How the PHIN website can help you.

You can also consult your GP and other healthcare professionals for advice on selecting a provider. 

Once you’ve chosen

You will need to schedule an appointment. If referred through the NHS e-Referral service, you will receive a letter with your booking reference and access code. You can also manage your appointment through the NHS app.

During the initial consultation, you should discuss your needs. You need to communicate your symptoms, medical history, and any concerns with the healthcare professional as you would if they were an NHS staff member.

Make sure you understand the recommended treatment, including its benefits, potential risks, and alternatives.

Once that is all clear, it is important that you follow professional advice and adhere to the treatment plan provided by the provider. If you are prescribed medication, ensure you understand the schedule and any potential side effects.

The NHS is covering the procedure costs, but check with the independent provider to make sure there are no additional costs you might be unaware of. You should confirm the billing process for any potential out-of-pocket expenses i.e. newspapers, phone calls.

You need to observe any post-treatment care instructions provided by the independent healthcare provider. You should also keep your NHS GP informed about your treatment, diagnoses, and progress. 

After you’ve been treated by an independent healthcare provider

You should share your experience and any concerns with the independent healthcare provider and your GP. If you have any concerns, you can use the provider's formal complaints procedure.

It is important to continue to attend appointments with your NHS GP for ongoing primary care.

You can benefit from the use of independent healthcare providers with NHS funding for specialised or expedited care. Following the above guidance should help ensure a smooth and effective healthcare experience.

Keep in mind that the NHS is your primary point of contact for general healthcare and emergencies, and your NHS GP should remain your central healthcare provider. 

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