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Is a private doctor for you?

Ever wished you had a private doctor? God bless the NHS, but sometimes it can be, er, frustrating… Which is why more and more people are choosing to register with a private GP

Ever wished you had a private doctor? God bless the NHS, but sometimes it can be, er, frustrating… Which is why more and more people are choosing to register with a private GP. Get an appointment when you want one and with the same doctor every time (anyone else baffled when they’re asked to name their GP? I’ve hardly seen the same one ever!), feel free to take longer than five minutes (I’ve known some NHS doctors to set an alarm) and avoid A&E on a Sunday when your toddler is running a high temperature or you need a quick medical intervention to get you fit for work on a Monday. This is all music to our ears – how do we sign up?

We picked the brains of the UK’s first and only concierge medical practice, Concierge Medical, to find out more about private GPs…

There’s no doubt that the NHS is experiencing unprecedented problems: an expanding and ageing population, more medications and treatments available and budgetary limitations. There are also falling numbers of both established GPs and trainees wishing to embark upon a career in General Practice. So it’s no surprise that you might think about turning to a private doctor for care. Are you unable to get an appointment, or frustrated with short appointment times? Or you can’t see the same doctor more than once in a row? You may need to see a doctor outside clinic hours  or need a doctor to see you at home, or you just want a prescription and it seems impossible to achieve. Sound familiar? Good job there are alternatives out there.

Clinic Based Providers

For a number of years it has been possible to see a private doctor at some local private hospital clinics. More recently, a number of GPs have started offering private appointments either from their NHS clinics or from rented health premises. In this setting, patients pay a ‘fee per service’ for each consultation and prescription and, more importantly, for each repeat visit. Accordingly, costs can spiral upwards, even for relatively minor conditions. At Concierge Medical, their fee structure is different. Members pay a monthly retainer for unlimited access to their service, with no nasty extras on top. They also provide urgently needed drugs at the point of contact.

They will visit you at home or in your workplace, negating the need to travel if you are feeling unwell. Moreover, there are many people who aren’t able to travel, either through age, social isolation or ongoing chronic illness, who struggle to access healthcare at all. Private GPs are able to provide the peace of mind they need by dealing with their health issues in the comfort of their own home.

A number of their members have joined the practice having previously used clinic based GP’s at private hospitals, highlighting that they still had to wait for an appointment with a private doctor. That comes as no surprise as the overwhelming majority of GPs in this setting are full-time NHS employees and squeeze private consultations in around their contracted work. Remember that it is not possible for doctors from the NHS practice that you are registered with to offer you a private appointment. Thus, these will be private appointments with NHS doctors, but not with your doctor. The doctors will not be available out of set hours, so provision of ongoing advice by phone/email/video and effective continuity of care is difficult. Concierge Medical doctors work solely for the company, hence same-day appointments are always achievable (even at weekends if needs be). Contacting your doctor at the time you need them is not an issue here.

Technology Based Providers

Newer services are frequently springing up which make use of developing technology to provide instant patient consultations. You can access a virtual consultation via mobile  – fine for simple illnesses but limited in the number of conditions they can treat and the depth of advice they can provide. The doctors providing these one-off consultations will not have access to your notes or medical history, so they may be inappropriate for chronic or complex conditions where continuity of care is critical. Also, concerns about the safety of some of these technology based services have been raised by the Care Quality Commission. Do your research first!

It takes as long as it takes…

Time constraints and the nature of video consultations mean that chronic problems are virtually impossible to tackle. At Concierge Medical, they don’t limit the length of telephone consultations or home visits. When new members join their services they are allocated a named doctor and encouraged to contact that doctor directly whenever required. They also provide true continuity of care, and will undertake home visits seven days a week, 365 days per year. Their members’ dedicated telephone line is open 24 hours per day.

So, need to see a doctor and think you would like to “go private?”. Or have you always used private doctors, but maybe aren’t getting the level of service that you deserve or don’t think you can get a high quality service outside London? Make sure you understand the traditional and emerging options available and choose the path most suited to managing your immediate and longer-term needs.

www.conciergemedical.co.uk, Tel: 01451 600900

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