Can you Mix Private Medical Care and NHS Medical Care?

Dr Vernon Coleman

There is much confusion among patients (and NHS staff) in the UK about whether patients can mix’n’match private medical care and NHS care. I have heard of patients being told (quite wrongly) that if they have something done privately then they won’t be able to have NHS treatment in future.

The simple fact is that patients can still use the NHS if they have had private treatment as long as they gain no advantage by doing so.

In other words you can’t get a private prescription for a drug not approved by the NHS and then expect the NHS to provide the drug.

But if you have a private operation and then, later, need expensive scans or physiotherapy which you cannot afford then you can move back to the NHS.

The rules say: ‘A patient’s entitlement to access NHS healthcare should not be affected by a decision by a patient to fund part or all of their healthcare needs privately’.

An individual who has commenced treatment that would have been provided by the NHS can, at any stage, request to transfer to complete the treatment within the NHS.

NHS rules do, however, state clearly that a patient cannot mix elements of NHS and private care within one ‘episode of care’.

So, for example, a patient undergoing a cataract operation as an NHS patient cannot choose to pay an extra fee to have a multi-focal lens inserted instead of the usual single-focus lens provided by the NHS.

Surprisingly, it all seems remarkably fair and straightforward!

Copyright Vernon Coleman June 2022

Vernon Coleman’s international bestseller `How to stop your doctor killing you’ is available as a paperback and an eBook on Amazon.