Before opening a private health practice in the UK, it is important to recognise that the existence of the NHS makes your endeavour something of a niche move. It is also one which will involve quite a legal journey to get started. And yet, with an increasing percentage of the public taking out private health cover, it’s clear that there is interest out there. If you have plans to start such a facility, it can be a successful and widely beneficial move – but it is essential to answer a few questions to yourself before embarking upon it…
What kind of service are you going to provide?
Most private health facilities in the UK are somewhat specialist in nature – and if you’re embarking on a new project, yours almost certainly will be. Your service will usually encounter more demand if you’re offering elective treatments rather than dealing with acute and emergency care, where public health still has a virtual monopoly.
Who will provide the healthcare?
In order to set up a healthcare facility, you must be a fully-registered GMC doctor, or be in partnership with one. Doctors with limited or provisional registration need to be supervised by a doctor who is fully registered before they can run a facility. It certainly helps if you have already worked within the NHS, and it is probably advisable that you continue to do so at least initially. That’s partly because you can’t guarantee a profit from your private work and partly because a good relationship with local hospitals may help with the next question.
Where do you plan to see patients?
Many private doctors see patients in an existing hospital, at least at the beginning. In many cases, that will be an NHS hospital – but if you intend to do this, be aware that you will be expected to pay for the use of the facilities, and to pay any ancillary staff employed there who you rely on. You can see patients in your own home, but you will need to meet high standards of hygiene and safety. Picking a specific room for consultations, and fitting it out with furniture and internal cladding from the likes of Cladding Monkey will be a wise move. It will probably be a while before you can afford to run a facility in a dedicated building.
What licensing and legal needs do you have to meet?
It is advisable to consult with a lawyer specialising in healthcare before you even begin to set up your business. You will, as a minimum, need full DBS checks for anyone working within the facility, as well as registering with the Information Commission. However, there will likely be more legal standards you need to meet, depending on the type of service you are offering, and this is the kind of information that only an experienced lawyer can confidently give.
Will you register with private insurers?
The answer here is “Yes”, as long as you want the practice to be successful. Of all the private health appointments taken in a year in the UK, just 20% are self-funded, so not working with the main private insurers is a bad idea. Register with those insurers, and seek to be included in their referral network. Patients with private insurance are advised by insurers as to which facilities they can be treated in, and if you’re not on the network, the insurer will not pay.
Working in private healthcare can be rewarding and essential – numerous patients went private during the pandemic to avoid the logjam in the public sector – but you do need to make sure you tick off all the key questions first.