Detailed Guide to Mixing NHS and Private Treatment

Ian Lewis[1]

Ian Lewis

Money Savings Advice Mixing the NHS and Private treatments

Many people see NHS and private healthcare facilities in competition when, in reality, they are complementary. It is very important to understand the relationship between the NHS and private healthcare sector and how patients benefit.

We will now take a look at the various areas in which the NHS and private healthcare companies work together and how this will impact treatment for each individual patient.

There is a common misconception that the NHS and private healthcare sector are in competition. This is simply not true. There are a number of services offered by the NHS which are not available in the private healthcare sector, such as for example, accident and emergency services.

There are numerous guidelines when mixing NHS and private healthcare treatment which needs to be respected.

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Can I Receive NHS and Private Healthcare at the Same Time?

Yes, it is possible to receive NHS and private healthcare at the same time, but there are certain guidelines. The regulations confirm there must be “as clear a separation as possible” between the two types of treatment.

Will I Pay for NHS Treatment if Receiving Private Treatment at the Same Time?

There is a common misconception that if you’re receiving treatment from the NHS and a private hospital, you may also be obliged to pay for your NHS treatment. This is simply not true. Under current regulations, your NHS treatment will continue free of charge although there is scope to charge for prescriptions in line with current legislation.

Will I Maintain My Place in the NHS Waiting List While Receiving Private Treatment?

If you are waiting for treatment through the NHS while receiving treatment through your private health insurance, this will not impact your place in the waiting list. Obviously, if you were in the queue for the same treatment as that being received through a private hospital, then it would be a waste of time retaining your place in the list.

What Does the Term “As Clear a Separation As Possible” Mean?

When receiving NHS and private healthcare treatment, there must be a clear separation, such as a different hospital, different wards, etc. Many people are unaware, but there are areas of the NHS which provide paid private healthcare services.

So, this term makes clear that two different sets of treatment cannot take place side-by-side using the same facilities.

What Can I Expect From NHS Private Healthcare Services?

If you receive private healthcare services via an NHS organisation, you should expect a private room within a different part of the NHS building/via a clinic run outside of NHS hours. In reality, where possible there needs to be a clear defining line between NHS services at the point of delivery and those paid for by private healthcare companies.

Why Do NHS Trusts Provide Private Healthcare Services?

There can be some confusion with regards to NHS trusts and their relationship with private healthcare facilities. The NHS does not directly provide private services to the general public; it is the private healthcare providers who make use of such services - for a fee. This can prove a very lucrative income stream for NHS trusts up and down the country, bolstering current budget challenges.

Can My Treatment Be Supervised by One Individual Healthcare Team?

When receiving treatment for a specific medical condition/ailment, it can be disappointing to see different faces and different names on a regular basis. As a consequence, when mixing NHS and private healthcare treatment (for the same condition), it is possible to have your treatment supervised by one individual healthcare team.

While this will obviously assist the patient, it is also very helpful for the continuation of treatment.

Can I Always Split Elements of My Treatment Between the NHS and Private Healthcare?

No. One of the more common examples is a cataract operation on the NHS and special lens implants via a private healthcare facility. This just doesn’t work. So either both parts of the treatment need to be done on the NHS, with standard lens implants, or through your private healthcare insurance, assuming you have the relevant cover.

If the elements of the treatment were split there would likely be an array of duplicate tests and potential complications. Nobody would take on this type of risk.

Who Would Treat Any Complications With My Mixed Treatment?

Normally, if it was the NHS element of your treatment that led to complications, then the NHS would address this issue. If it was the treatment from your private health provider, which led to complications, then they would be obliged to address these.

Any other arrangement would be akin to fixing mistakes made by another party and potentially leaving yourself open to a personal injury claim.

Would I Still Receive NHS Treatment in an Emergency?

If there was an emergency as a consequence of the mixed treatment between your NHS/private healthcare providers, under no circumstances could the NHS refuse treatment. This is one of the fundamental rights of all UK citizens with regards to NHS treatment - nobody is turned away in an emergency.

Can I Arrange My Own Appointment With a Consultant/Specialist?

While not common practice under BMA guidelines, you could arrange your own appointment with a consultant/specialist using your private healthcare insurance. However, the more regular course of action is to approach your GP, and they will refer you to a consultant/specialist if required.

At this point, you can also ask about private healthcare facilities in the hospital/local NHS trust.

Can I Choose Where to Receive Treatment?

While your local NHS hospital will endeavour to offer treatment in your locality, this may not always be possible. When it comes to private health cover the place and timing of any treatment is more flexible. However, it will still be conditional upon local specialist services being available in your area at the preferred time.


There are many misunderstandings, rumours and counter rumours regarding the mixing of NHS and private healthcare treatment. It is important to see the NHS and private healthcare services as complimentary as opposed to in competition. Indeed, many NHS trusts now offer private healthcare facilities to private healthcare companies. However, NHS trusts do not offer private healthcare services directly to the general public.

How Can Money Savings Advice Help You With Private Medical Insurance?

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Money Savings Advice Author Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis is one of our specialist financial writers. Ian has over 15 years of financial writing experience, having worked for some of the largest financial publications in the UK covering topics from mortgages, equity release, loans and financial claims, to name a few.

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