Responding to private healthcare

GPC England has written the following guidance to help practices reduce extra workload generated by requests from private providers.

With nearly 7.5 million people on NHS waiting lists in May 2023, patients are increasingly resorting to seeking private healthcare to deal with their health problems.  This is adding extra workload for general practices due to private providers making requests in several areas:

  • to make private referrals
  • to provide medical information about patients
  • to organise further tests
  • to issue prescriptions
  • for onward NHS referrals.

This guidance is written to help support practices to reduce this extra workload.

NHS guidance states

Patients may pay for additional private healthcare while continuing to receive care from the NHS.

However, in order to ensure that there is no risk of the NHS subsidising private care:

  • It should always be clear whether an individual procedure or treatment is privately funded or NHS funded.
  • Private and NHS care should be kept as clearly separate as possible.
  • The patient should bear the full costs of any private services. NHS resources should never be used to subsidise the use of private care.
  • The arrangements put in place to deliver additional private care should be designed to ensure as clear a separation as possible of funding, legal status, liability and accountability between NHS care and any private care that a patient receives.

Patient referrals from a GP for private services

If a patient chooses to seek private treatment, they can self-refer. However, some consultants will only see patients that have a referral from a GP.

If a patient requests a private referral, you cannot charge either the patient or their insurer for the referral or the provision of a letter, as it is your professional obligation to provide enough information to ensure a safe transfer of care.

If a private provider requires medical information about a patient, this can be provided by the patient by supplying copies of hospital letters received by the patient or by sharing their medical records via the NHS app or online medical records system. Patients can make a SAR request to obtain a free of charge printed summary of their medical record.

However, if you make a private referral and the private insurer ADDITIONALLY REQUESTS a specific form be filled out for insurance purposes, you can charge (either them or the patient) for filling out that form.  We would recommend utilising the BMA fees calculator to ensure an appropriate charge is made.

Please see this link for the full BMA article

First Published
24 July 2023
Updated On
11 October 2023
Due to be Reviewed
24 July 2025
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