Should I see a Private Doctor?
There’s no doubt that the NHS is experiencing unprecedented problems: an expanding and ageing population, more medications and treatments available and budgetary limitations relating to the overall financial climate. Additionally, in our field of primary care, there are falling numbers of both established GPs and trainees wishing to embark upon a career in General Practice. So it’s no surprise that you might think about turning to a private doctor for care. Are you unable to get a timely appointment, or frustrated with short appointment times and don’t feel like you’re adequately able to discuss your problems ? Or you can’t see your doctor for weeks or the same doctor more than once in a row? You may need to see a doctor outside clinic hours (eg weekend or bank holidays) or are unable/unwilling to travel to the clinic and need a doctor to see you at home? Or you just want a prescription and it seems impossible to achieve ? Sound familiar? This blog looks at what options are available and how Concierge Medical remains uniquely different to all other private doctor services out there.
Clinic Based Providers
For a number of years it has been possible to see a private doctor at some local private hospital clinics. More recently, a number of non-hospital aligned GPs have started also offering private appointments either from their NHS clinics or from rented health premises. In this setting, patients pay a ‘fee per service’ for each consultation, investigation and prescription and, more importantly, for each repeat visit. Accordingly, costs can spiral upwards, even for relatively minor conditions. At Concierge Medical, our fee structure is different and completely transparent. Members pay a monthly retainer fee for unlimited access to our service. In other words, they are not penalised for being ill. If five home visits are required for one episode of illness, it is covered by the monthly fee (there’s no additional visiting fee on top of the retainer, as per some services or annual limit on consultations). We provide urgently needed drugs, such as antibiotics or analgesia, at the point of contact as part of that fee structure too.
The traditional clinic-based service means you have to attend a clinic and sit in a waiting room (which understandably concerns those with a propensity to pick up other infections). At Concierge Medical, we visit our members at home or in their workplace, negating the need to travel if they are feeling unwell. Moreover, there are many people who aren’t able to travel, either through age, social isolation or ongoing chronic illness, who struggle to access healthcare at all. We are able to provide the peace of mind they need by dealing with their health issues in the comfort of their own home.
A number of our members have joined our practice having previously accessed clinic based GP’s at private hospitals, highlighting that they still had to wait for an appointment with a private doctor. That comes as no surprise as the overwhelming majority of GPs in this setting are full-time NHS employees and squeeze private consultations in around their contracted work. You should always remember that it is not possible for doctors from the NHS practice that you are registered with to offer you a private appointment. Thus, these will be private appointments with NHS doctors, but not with your doctor. The doctors will not be available out of set hours, so provision of ongoing advice by phone/email/video and effective continuity of care is difficult. Concierge Medical doctors work solely for us, hence same-day appointments are always achievable (even at weekends if needs be). Contacting your doctor at the time you need them is not an issue with us.
Technology Based Providers
Newer services are frequently springing up which make use of developing technology to provide instant patient consultations. You can access a virtual consultation via mobile phone or PC video platform and these undoubtedly do suit certain demographics with simple illnesses. However, they are significantly limited in terms of the number of conditions they can treat (check their disclaimers) and the depth of advice they can provide in the limited time-frame available. The doctors providing these one-off consultations will not have access to your notes or medical history, including allergies or current medications, so they may be inappropriate for chronic or complex conditions where continuity of care is critical. If your medical needs are more complex, question whether this option is appropriate for you. Also, concerns about the safety of some of these technology based services, have been raised by the Care Quality Commission (who regulate all doctors, NHS and private). Always do your research ! With many of these services, charges are levied per unit of time (often in 10 minute increments). Whilst Concierge Medical do use video or photographic methods to assist consultations from time to time, we strongly believe that it is not an adequate replacement for face-to-face home visits.
It takes as long as it takes…
Time constraints and the nature of video consultations mean that chronic problems are virtually impossible to tackle. At Concierge Medical, we don’t limit the length of telephone consultations or home visits. The complexity of ongoing medical issues, allied with an understanding of how that is affecting our member’s lives, requires time and we provide that time as needed. Furthermore, when new members join our services they are allocated a named doctor and encouraged to contact that doctor directly whenever required (via telephone, text or e-mail). Accordingly, we provide true continuity of care.
With the vast majority of both clinic-based and technology private doctor services, the time you can access healthcare is restricted by closing times. That is not the case with Concierge Medical. We undertake home visits seven days a week, 365 days per year and our members’ dedicated telephone line is open 24 hours per day. We have also set strict limits on numbers of registered members per doctor to ensure that we always remain able to provide the high level of service.
So, need to see a doctor and think you would like to “go private?”. Or have you always used private doctors, but maybe aren’t getting the level of service that you deserve or don’t think you can get a high quality service outside London? Make sure you understand the traditional and emerging options available and choose the path most suited to managing your immediate and longer-term needs.
Dr Simon Gillson is the co-founder and Medical Director at Concierge Medical Practice, the UK’s first and only Concierge Medical Practice. Concierge Medical is an award-winning, private GP service which has been providing round-the-clock comprehensive healthcare to members in the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire since 2013. It is registered with, and has been inspected by, the Care Quality Commission and has shown sustained growth in both doctor and member numbers since it commenced practice. Dr Gillson: “Our core business will always be to provide a traditional family doctor service with a modern twist and we will always act as our members advocates. If you are looking for complete peace of mind, with true continuity of care, please get in touch”