Does seeing a private GP affect my NHS registration?
Updated: Nov 29, 2019
You may be looking into seeing a private GP, but you’re unsure (and maybe worried about) how it will affect you use of the NHS service. If this is holding you back, you don’t need to worry. Simply put, you do not need to deregister with your NHS GP in order to see a private GP. The systems they use are different, so the services run independently of each other.
Your NHS GP will not be aware that you have used a different service unless that information is intentionally shared by yourself or your private clinic.
Now there is one example of where the lines became blurred and it caused issues with patients being deregistered from their usual NHS practice. This was in the case of GP at Hand, a group of surgeries in London who have a contract with the NHS, to provide GP services. They are also under the umbrella of Babylon health, a private healthcare company which provides the digital element for their service; being video consultations. The confusion came about because many patients thought they were consulting the company as a private service, whereas in actual fact it was providing NHS services. This meant that patients were automatically deregistered from the previous GP, when they registered with GP at Hand. Many patients felt this hadn’t been made clear. Furthermore, certain patients were not eligible to register, so other local NHS GPs felt that GP at Hand was cherry picking the easiest patients and yet being paid the same as them. Many of these issues have now be addressed on the GP at hand website, for anyone wishing to make enquiries into their service.
That was quite a unique problem, and it has not happened anywhere else in the UK so far. So if you are considering your options you might be wondering- can you use both? Do some people only use a private service? My experience is that everyone chooses to do slightly different things, and that’s okay. Some people will only ever use NHS GPs; and some people will only ever use a private GP. Some people mix and match; they see a private GP for certain problems, of if they need a convenient appointment time. Perhaps they’re going on holiday and can’t wait? Or they need a longer appointment, or in the evening or weekends? Overseas visitors also tend to use private GP clinics for things that crop up while they’re away from home. Some people have private health insurance and it will cover the cost of seeing a private GP.
I work in both NHS and private practice, and I always recommend that you are at least registered with a local NHS GP practice. In this article we’ll look at the main reasons why.
NHS and the private sector systems are not linked, meaning they do not share notes (although GPs can choose to share important information). If you are registered with the NHS service your health record will be accurate and up-to-date. This means that if you ever need an ambulance, out-of-hours or A&E treatment the Doctors can see the key facts about you. Let’s say you’re unconscious and can’t communicate? But they can see that you have epilepsy and haven’t ordered your medication for three months. Or you have a car crash and are bleeding heavily; the ambulance crew can see that you take a medication that thins the blood. You can see why that would be crucial.
There are also certain parts of the NHS care that work really when different teams are required. For example, for pregnant women or people with cancer. On the whole they will get swift joined-up care on the NHS so keeping those links open would be beneficial for their treatment.
If you do see a private GP, they may suggest that they share some information with your NHS GP if it is in your best interests. This is because all Doctors, whether they work for the NHS or private, have the same duty for the care and safety of their patients. Private GPs can offer all of the same services as your NHS GP; they can investigate, treat and refer in the usual way.
Many people are also concerned that the NHS will no longer cover them if they pay for any private GP services. This is not the case. You will still have full access to all NHS services, should they wish to use them.
So, in summary, if you choose to see a private GP it will not affect registration with your usual NHS practice. I think it is best to think of private GP services as complimenting the NHS service, not replacing it. Private GPs provide additional appointments for those who are willing to pay a fee in return for easy access and longer appointment times. It can be a way of freeing up space in an already over-stretched service.