Although it’s not an option for many people because of the financial cost, you might feel it's the right choice for you to see a private nurse, doctor, psychiatrist or therapist – either alongside NHS support, or instead of it. This page provides information on:
Why might I decide to go private?
Some common reasons for considering seeking help through the private sector might be:
- You're not receiving the support you want from your NHS GP.
- You want a second – or third – opinion, and your NHS GP isn't able to provide it.
- You want to access support more quickly, for example if there is a long waiting list for talking treatments on the NHS in your area.
- You're looking for a specialist treatment or more choice of treatments and providers.
- The treatment you want isn’t available through the NHS.
- You want more intensive support, or support over a longer period of time.
- You want access to medication that isn’t provided through the NHS.
- You want to attend a private hospital or clinic.
I tried going through the NHS but counselling wasn't available out of work hours, which just wasn't viable for me. I did some research on local therapists in my area, sent a few emails regarding fees and availability, and picked the best fit for me.
How do I access private health care or therapy?
Private GPs, nurses or clinics
- ask your NHS GP to refer you or make a suggestion
- search online for a private health care provider and contact them directly
- use an online listing service, such as Patient.co.uk’s search facility
All doctors (including GPs and psychiatrists) and all nurses (including community psychiatric nurses (CPNs)) must be properly qualified and registered to be legally allowed to practice. You can check that they are registered by searching:
You can also ask them directly to show you their qualifications.
Private counsellors or therapists
You can find a therapist through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Any therapist you find through this website will have signed up to the BACP’s ethical framework, which means they must:
- behave in a professional and safe way towards you
- explain their responsibilities regarding confidentiality
- tell you their complaints procedure if you ask for it
How do I pay for private health care?
Private health care can be expensive, so you may need to think carefully about how – or if – you will be able to afford it.
There are two main payment options:
- Paying the health care provider directly. Your health care provider should explain any treatment or appointment costs clearly beforehand. Some providers may have payment plans that allow you to pay in instalments.
- Taking out private health care insurance. Insurance can cover part or all of the cost of your treatment, depending on your policy. Not all policies cover psychiatric treatment or pre-existing conditions, so before taking out any policy you should check it carefully and make sure you understand what it covers. The consumer organisation Which? has published some guidance about choosing private health care insurance.
Private therapy costs will usually depend on:
- what the therapist charges
- how many sessions you go for
- how often you go
Some private therapists offer a sliding scale of payment depending on your circumstances.
This information was published in September 2015. We will revise it in 2018.