How does private healthcare work?

By Spire Healthcare

Page last reviewed: February 2021 | Next review due: February 2022

How does private healthcare work?

If you have a health concern, the first thing you want to find out is ‘what is wrong with me?’

The consultant or specialist will want to know more about any problems you’ve been experiencing and may have a letter from your GP explaining why the appointment is needed. During your appointment they will also ask you specific questions to help with your diagnosis and may carry out a physical examination. The consultant or specialist may recommend tests including scans or X-rays to help with your diagnosis.

Spire understands this and has a network of specialists and diagnostic teams to help you get answers as quickly as possible.


Step by step process

Step 1: Before booking an appointment, you may need a referral letter from your NHS GP. If you already know the type of consultant you need to see, you can call the private hospital to make an appointment.

Step 2: Your GP will recommend a specialist consultant and write a private patient referral letter on your behalf. If you have private health insurance, you’ll need to check the referral is covered by your insurance policy and get an authorisation reference from them.

Step 3: If you are paying for yourself, you can self-refer and call the private hospital directly to make an appointment. With private health insurance an appointment is arranged with a consultant through your insurer.

Step 4: If you need any tests or scans, these can be undertaken either before or after your initial consultation. Your GP may already know what tests you need or your consultant will advise you.

Step 5: After the appointment, the consultant will write to your GP to update them on what they have found. You may also have a follow up appointment with the consultant to discuss any test or scan results.

Step 6: After the appointment, the hospital can give you a fixed or all-inclusive price if inpatient treatment is needed. The price will include all aspects of your care while in hospital.

Step 7: Once you’ve decided to go ahead with treatment, admission will be arranged.


If you’re paying for yourself, you’ll usually pay the initial consultation fee directly to your consultant. The all-inclusive price includes fees for the consultant, hospital, anaesthetist, follow-up appointment and any outpatient physiotherapy that may be needed. Treatment costs must be paid in full before admission.

With private health insurance, the insurance company will pay the invoice, apart from any excess on the policy that must be paid separately.

Find your nearest Spire hospital or clinic

Spire Leeds Hospital