Why would I choose to go private?
The NHS offers treatment or care for your mental health needs, but you may decide to get private healthcare for the reasons below.
Better choice of when you are treated and shorter waiting times
The NHS often has long waiting times. You can get private healthcare quickly and book a consultation or appointment at a time that suits you. This means shorter waiting times and more flexibility of when you are seen.
A choice of where you are treated
If you need treatment or care for your mental health, you can only get help from the NHS in the area you normally live. This is the case unless you need emergency treatment or are getting treatment out-of-area. This is because of how NHS funding works. Generally speaking, you can get private help in an area that suits you better.
A choice of who you see
Going private means you can ‘shop around’ and find a specialist (for example a doctor or therapist) of your choice.
The option to have treatment which may not be available on the NHS
Sometimes the NHS can’t always offer every sort of treatment. For example, you may want a particular kind of talking therapy that the NHS doesn’t offer in your area.
If the NHS doesn’t offer a certain type of treatment that is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), you can still try and get this through an ‘individual funding request’.
If you are unable to access a particular treatment on the NHS, you may want to explore getting it privately.
What should I consider before making a decision?
Private healthcare is generally quite expensive. You can find more information about paying for private mental healthcare on our How do I pay for private mental healthcare page.
Your care and treatment with the NHS
If you are getting private treatment, you can still get NHS care but the NHS is very unlikely to offer you the same treatment. This is so that you don’t get the same treatment twice. Private specialists should write to your GP to update them after you have any private treatment. You can find out more about this here.
Whether the person you see is accredited or registered
If you decide to see someone who offers private mental healthcare, you should ask them about their qualifications and accreditations. Being accredited means that an official body makes sure that their service has high standards. For example, not all therapists have to be accredited so it is important to check first.
All doctors (for example GPs and psychiatrists) must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). You can check to see if a doctor is registered on their website.
The quality of service
Check to see if your private healthcare provider has patient satisfaction scores, reviews or reports. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) publishes the results of hospital inspections for both NHS and private hospitals on their website.
Getting a private second opinion accepted by the NHS
You might decide to ask for a second opinion if you have questions around your mental health diagnosis or treatment. Some people decide to get a private second opinion because the NHS won’t provide one. NHS services do not have to accept a second opinion you have had done privately so you should check with your NHS team first.