It is no surprise that the demand for private GP appointments is on the rise. With NHS GP surgeries struggling to allocate timely consultations, appointments being limited to 10 minutes and patients' growing appetite to be seen outside of working hours, private GP appointments are a solution that could provide quick access to medical attention for those who need it.
In this article, we describe the different ways you can arrange a private GP consultation, what it might cost and an alternative way to access private GP consultations free of charge.
1 minute summary - Getting a private GP appointment
- A private GP appointment can be arranged virtually by video call or by telephone
- Prescriptions can be issued by a private GP further to a private consultation
- Ad hoc private GP appointments can be sourced from £49 per appointment and we explain how to book these in our article
- Some life insurance policies will provide access to private GP appointments at no extra cost and you can arrange these by speaking with a life insurance specialist – you will receive up to £100 cashback when you buy it.
- Health insurance policies usually include access to private GP appointments but some insurance providers are more generous with these than others so it is best to speak with a health insurance specialist – you will receive £100 cashback when you buy it (offer ends 31st January 2024)
How do I get a private GP appointment?
Private GP appointments are available in person across the UK or can take place virtually via an online consultation and so getting a private GP appointment is not difficult. However, despite the simple presentation of options from healthcare companies, there are a number of factors that you should consider before you book an appointment. These include:
- The initial cost of the consultation
- The time allowed for the consultation
- Whether a referral or private prescription will be charged separately
- Options to refer the consultation notes to an NHS doctor for follow up
- Location if booking an in-person appointment
Many private GP appointments that are paid for at the point of use are limited to people who are either over the age of 16 or 18 years old. Private GP appointments, arranged through insurance products, can be accessed by the policyholder but can, in some cases, also be extended for use by family members including children. We describe private GP access through insurance products further on in the article.
How do Private GP appointments work?
Private GP appointments connect patients with a general practitioner outside of the NHS for consultations, however, the private GP that you will see is often an NHS GP too. The consultations are usually carried out either over the phone, by video call or in-person / face-to-face – the latter is commonly the most expensive type of private GP service you can arrange.
Face-to-face private GP appointments
In-person or face-to-face private GP appointments can be necessary in situations where a physical examination is required or the patient feels better supported. Whilst most private GP health clinics allow patients to select between telephone, video call or face-to-face appointments, some options may not exist for patients who are limited in their means of access to devices or GP clinics close enough to travel to.
Virtual / Video call private GP appointments
As has become quite commonplace since the pandemic, patients can be seen and examined (albeit at a distance) through virtual appointments. These types of private GP appointments will require the patient to have access to a device including the right software and the ability to use a video camera and microphone to engage with the doctor. Some kinds of conditions cannot be assessed by video call as they would require physical examination but doctors can assess complaints that only require visual examination combined with the patient's account of their symptoms.
Telephone private GP appointments
A telephone call with a doctor can sometimes be sufficient for a thorough assessment of a person's medical complaint. It is usually the cheapest means of accessing private GP consultations and a great place to start if you are unsure about how to navigate the process. Most private GPs will let you know if they need to see you so you can rest assured that you will still be treated properly.
How much is a private GP appointment?
A private GP appointment can cost between £40 to £200 per consultation depending on the following:
- Duration of appointment – appointments usually start from 15 minutes long but you can opt for a longer appointment as long as you are prepared to pay more
- Specialist doctors – general practitioners can be limited in their knowledge of specific medical problems so you may opt to see a doctor who specialises in your areas of concern and this may cost more
- Location of clinic (face-to-face appointments) – the location of your clinic could make your appointment more or less expensive but do not assume that all London clinics, for example, are the most expensive as pricing is determined by the healthcare provider
- Self paying or insurance – the full cost of a private GP consultation will fall to you if you are self-funding but if you have health insurance or life insurance, your consultation fee could be subsidised or waived through your insurance provider
Private GP appointment at a Bupa Health Centre
Bupa is a well-known healthcare brand that provides a pay-as-you-go option for those who wish to access private healthcare when needed without signing up for private medical insurance. Bupa GP consultations are available UK-wide at various Bupa Health Centres with around 49 centres spread across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As well as private GP appointments, BUPA's health centres offer private health assessments, travel vaccinations, physiotherapy, musculoskeletal services, dermatology, and workplace health services.
How much does a Bupa private GP appointment cost?
|Duration of private GP appointment||Cost of an in-person / face-to-face private GP appointment||Cost of an online / video private GP appointment|
Private GP appointments with Medicspot
Medicspot is an online health service that provides users with access to health assessments, private GP consultations and Covid testing. The service can be used for children aged 5-15 years old as long as an adult accompanies the appointment.
Medicspot private GP costs
|Duration of private GP appointment||Cost of an online / video private GP appointment|
|15 minutes (can last longer if deemed necessary)||£49|
Medicspot private GP consultations are available online but you can also book to access your virtual appointment at a local pharmacy (where available) to pick up any prescription medication while you're there. Appointments are open from 9am to 9pm daily except on Sunday when the service runs from 9am to 6pm and at the time of writing same-day appointments were readily available.
Private GP appointments with Nuffield Health Services
As well as a number of fitness and wellbeing centres, Nuffield has many medical centres that offer access to Private GP appointments which will be virtual in the first instance but may be followed up with an in-person appointment if the situation requires this. Nuffield only provides private doctor appointments for people over the age of 18 and they must have access to Microsoft Teams to access the virtual appointment in the first instance.
Initial virtual private GP appointments will cost £65 with Nuffield.
How to access private GP consultations free of charge
Free private GP appointments are available to policyholders of certain types of personal insurance. The parameters for private GP appointments does vary across different insurance companies with differences in the way you can speak to a doctor, how private prescriptions are issued, whether you can expect a referral to a specialist where needed or the issue of fit-notes.
Free GP consultations with health insurance
As you would probably expect, if you have health insurance then your insurance will usually include access to private GP consultations over the phone or online via video consultation. Although face-to-face private GP consultations are usually available through health insurance as well, policyholders will usually pay for this through the excess that applies to their insurance. If anyone in your family is named on your health insurance policy then they will usually be able to arrange a private GP consultation too.
If you do not have health insurance and would like to arrange health insurance specifically to provide access to private GP consultations you can find cheap health insurance options that provide virtual GP access. There are a few health insurance companies that offer basic health insurance that include virtual GP access, diagnostic testing and mental health counselling at a much lower price than you would pay for more comprehensive health insurance policies that cover the cost of private treatment as well.
Benenden health insurance offers this type of cover as does Aviva's Diagnostics Insurance. The best way to work out which options are best for you is to speak with a specialist health insurance broker who can explain the various types of health insurance policies and what they will cost. Howden Life & Health* is an award-winning health insurance broker that we have found to provide expert guidance when it comes to choosing the right health insurance policy for your needs. Additionally, those who take out a policy can qualify for £100 cashback – offer ends 31st January 2024.
Free GP consultations with life insurance and other personal insurance products
It is not commonly understood by policyholders of life insurance and sickness insurance that they may have access to ancillary benefits that can include access to private GP consultations. The benefits are a win-win as insurance companies are less likely to need to pay a claim for death or illness if their policyholders can get timely medical attention and policyholders benefit from being able to by-pass NHS delays by using these services. The benefits are usually a non-contractual part of the insurance meaning that the insurer can revoke them at any time.
The GP consultations are usually available over the telephone and some insurance companies provide video consultations too – these can be adequate for non-urgent and non-life threatening medical needs.
Life insurance companies that offer private GP Appointments free of charge
|Insurance company||Basic health advice||GP consultation||Limitations||Availability||Who can use the service?|
|AIG||Unlimited||24/7 365 days a year access to General Practitioner||Policyholder + their partner and children up to the age of 21|
|Aviva||Unlimited||24/7 365 days a year access to a Bupa Nurse||Policyholder only|
|British Friendly||Unlimited||24/7 365 days a year access to digital General Practitioner||Policyholder + their partner and children up to the age 18 (22 if in full-time education)|
|Cirencester||Up to 4 consultations per year||Phone Consultations – 24/7, 365 days a year access
Video Consultations – 8am – 10pm, 7 days a week, excluding Christmas Day
|Guardian||Unlimited||24/7 365 days a year access to digital General Practitioner||Policyholder + their partner and children up to the age of 23|
|Legal & General||Unlimited||Telephone access – 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday||Policyholder + their partner and children (living at home)|
|LV||Up to 6 sessions||8am – 7pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am – 1pm on Saturdays||Policyholder + their partner and children up to the age of 16|
|Royal London||Unlimited||24/7, 365 days a year||Policyholder only (Access to specialist nurse if partner or children suffer a serious illness or injury)|
|Scottish Widows||Unlimited||24/7, 365 days a year||Policyholder + their partner and children up to the age 18|
|The Exeter||Up to 4 consultations per year||24/7, 365 days a year||Policyholder + their partner and children|
|Vitality||Up to 4 consultations per year||24/7, 365 days a year||Policyholder only|
Many life insurance companies provide health apps that give members access to:
- GP consultations
- Mental health support
- Health screens
- Physiotherapy sessions
- Legal assistance
- Bereavement counselling
- 2nd medical opinions
These types of benefits can be priceless when faced with limitations within the NHS that could make it difficult to see a doctor, get timely support for some conditions and even when you just want to be sure that the course of treatment and care you're being provided is the best.
Free private medical prescriptions
In the vast majority of cases, the private GP will be able to issue a prescription for any medication that is needed. However, the cost of the medication may have to be paid by the patient.
Referrals to specialist consultations
It is possible for the private GP to share information from the private consultation with your normal NHS doctor in order to progress any need for a specialist consultation. If you have health insurance, the private GP can refer you but under other insurances, the private GP is unlikely to make the referral. On occasions, a blood test could be organised through a private GP consultation but again this is subject to the terms of the consultation.
Will the private GP be able to issue a fit note?
Some private GP consultations will facilitate a fit note where needed by the patient but not all do, so you must check the terms and conditions of the GP access offered through your insurance policy.
How to arrange life insurance that offers private GP consultations
If you already have a personal insurance policy, you could have access to private GP consultations. However, some insurers have offered the GP service as an ancillary benefit in recent years which may not be available to policyholders who bought their insurance before this. Do check your policy terms and conditions for access to healthcare helplines or virtual access to private doctors.
If you would like to buy life insurance or a sickness insurance policy that will provide access to private GP services, you should speak with a specialist life insurance adviser*. They will ascertain what types of insurance are best suited to your needs and explain how the ancillary GP service will work. If you do not need life insurance then there are options to subscribe for private GP consultations and these can be explored in your local area. Having searched for these types of services, a basic subscription that offers up to 4 consultations per year can cost upwards of £150 annually.
If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following links can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article – LifeSearch, Howden Life & Health