More than half of Britons would consider using a private GP

17 April 2023

  • Almost three quarters (70%) of British adults are worried about accessing an NHS GP should they need one
  • Half of respondents would consider seeing a private GP to relieve the burden on the NHS
  • New survey from Spire Healthcare highlights growing appeal of private GPs
    as many patients struggle to access NHS services

More than half of Britons (53%) would consider seeing a private GP in the future, according to a poll commissioned by FTSE-listed independent healthcare provider, Spire Healthcare.

Approximately a third (32%) of the 2,000 respondents who took part in the Focaldata survey said they had used a private GP in the past three years, with the majority of those (60%) having booked more than one private appointment in this period.

The survey findings correspond with the increased level of demand that Spire Healthcare is witnessing for its own Spire GP services. In its latest financial results, published earlier this month, Spire reported a 46% growth in its private GP revenues, after a 39% increase in Spire GP appointments:

  • Over half of respondents (54%) found it difficult to book a face-to-face appointment with an NHS GP
  • Almost half (45%) struggled to get a telephone appointment
  • For patients who needed an appointment in the past six months, just under a quarter (24%) were unable to book one

Significantly, half of respondents (49%) would consider seeing a private GP to relieve the burden on the NHS while 72% of respondents said the opportunity to pick and choose between using an NHS or a private GP depending on the medical concern, would be appealing.

When asked about the reasons for considering private GP services, the speed of being seen (52%), ease of booking appointments (37%) and the ability to book face-to-face appointments (37%) come out on top.

 Dr Cathy Cale, Group Medical Director of Spire Healthcare, said: “Within our private GP services we are seeing huge demand as patients have struggled to access their local services. People also want to exercise choice, with a growing volume of patients switching in and out of the NHS and having ‘episodes’ of private care, suited to their specific needs.

 “Other people simply enjoy the flexibility that private GP services offer, including the ability to book longer appointments at short notice, choose the location and format, or they want to see the same GP with each appointment. We believe this heightened demand for private GP services is here to stay, as people prioritise their health and want a service that suits their needs and supports an often busy lifestyle.”

The survey found that almost three quarters of Britons (70%) are worried about accessing an NHS GP if needed.

Figure 1) Which features would attract you most to the idea of using a private GP, should you ever need to consider it? Please select up to three.                                             

Source: Focaldata      


Dr Jeremy Cohen is a GP who practises within the NHS and at Spire’s clinic in Harpenden.

Dr Cohen comments: “Most patients seen at Spire Healthcare seem to prefer to be seen privately because of both the speed of access and longer appointment time. During the pandemic I had contact with lots of patients who were simply desperate to speak with a doctor but whose concerns were not deemed urgent. 

“Post-pandemic, I now see a broad range of private patients, some of whom require ongoing care for chronic illnesses, some who come for a one-off problem, and others who come for a single consultation but then stay for the duration of their treatment. 

“Meanwhile, the most significant benefit of private care, in my opinion, is the time available to discuss an individual’s medical concerns and my recommendations in depth, which often isn’t achievable with the duration of an NHS GP appointment, especially if it is about a complex issue.”

Carl Caswell, a company director from Hertfordshire primarily sees an NHS GP but has used a private GP through Spire Harpenden Hospital on occasion.

Carl comments: “With my most recent medical concern, it took several days to get through to the reception at my local NHS GP and I couldn’t get an appointment sooner than in three weeks’ time. I decided to contact Spires’s private GP service in Harpenden and was able to get an appointment that same week, which led to uncovering I had diabetes after a blood test. I particularly value the accessibility and personability of private GP services. It allows them the time to discuss my concerns with me at length and understand my feelings.

“The NHS is still my first port of call. However, for pressing issues, I’m fortunate to be able to use Spire’s services when I want to have something sorted urgently.”