The NHS & Private Healthcare – How They Work Together

In the UK, we’re fortunate enough to have the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS provides free healthcare to all residents. The NHS provides excellent care, and is a special resource but in recent years, the service has come under significant strain. Rise in population, increase in life expectancy and lack of funding has resulted in longer waiting times for patients.  

Due to strain that the NHS has been put under, a lot of people in the UK are now turning to private healthcare to bypass lengthy wait times and to gain access to specialist treatments and private hospitals. Approximately 11% of the population use private healthcare as an add-on to the NHS services.

How does private healthcare work with the NHS?

UK citizens are still entitled to free NHS care if private healthcare is obtained as an add-on. Should UK citizens opt for private health care, a few of the many benefits include shorter waiting times, access to specialist drugs and treatments, access to state-of-the-art private hospitals, quick access to a GP service and more.

Those with health insurance cover in the UK can choose whether to opt for NHS, private healthcare or reap the benefits of both healthcare systems intertwined.

Private Health Benefits

In addition to shorter waiting times, access to specialist treatments or drugs, private hospitals and quick GP access - private health care policy holders can also benefit from the following:

Cancer cover

Not all private health insurance providers offer cancer care as part of their policies, but there are many providers who do provide cancer care or treatment as part of their general package.

Member offers & discounts

Most private health insurance providers now offer policy holders exclusive membership offers and discounts to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.


The majority of people don’t realise that when purchasing a private health insurance policy, you’re more often than not entitled to physiotherapy specialists.

Take a look at our 8 unexpected benefits of health insurance post to learn more.

Nurse with hand on patients shoulder
Can I still use the NHS with private healthcare?

The short answer = yes. Those with private medical cover would still use the NHS for emergency cover (such as the ambulance service) and have the choice to opt to use NHS treatment if required. Having private healthcare does not mean you have to use it – you have the choice to use your cover or be treated by the NHS, just like those without cover.

Additional factors to note

Individuals who opt for supplementary private care:

  • Are not to be put at any advantage or disadvantage in relation to the NHS care they receive

  • Can’t be asked to pay towards their NHS care, except where legislation allows charges (i.e. such as prescription charges)

  • Should not have any waiting list change, should one choose to have a private consultation.

We’ll help you find health insurance cover

Whether you’d like to primarily use the NHS, opt for private health insurance or use the two systems combined is your decision – however, there are many perks to obtaining private health cover in the UK and it needn’t be expensive.

Here at The Health Insurance Specialists, our expert, friendly team can match you with a private care package that meets your health requirements and budget. We have access to the whole of the UK market, and can search and compare well-known providers for you. Sit back and relax as we do the hard work and send the quotes to you to choose from. Our quotes are always no-obligation – and free. To find cover to suit your health needs call us on 0808 10 18 999 or fill in our online form.

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