How to set up a private medical practice

Dec 12, 2021
How to set up a private medical practice

Hospital consultants and GPs – There’s never been a better time to start your private practice and in this article we want to give you some practical advice on how to get started in private practice. Don't forget to check out our webinar on why we think there has never been a better time to get started. 

For many NHS Doctors, there is little training, advice and support for getting started in private healthcare. Doctors often think that private medical practice is the remit of hospital consultants, but many general practitioners are starting to consider alternative career paths alongside their NHS GP work - providing great medical care to patients with either private health or medical insurance, self-pay patients or even NHS patients on waiting lists who are becoming increasingly frustrated. What’s even more interesting is that this change in focus is not just in the area of private general practice, but is also trending in speciality disciplines such as coaching, lifestyle, functional medicine, aesthetics, skin care and much more. Many of the skills, knowledge and experience that GP partners acquire and use on a daily basis are very transferable to setting up and growing a successful private medical practice or healthcare business.

However it can seem daunting at the start when thinking about how you're going to balance your existing NHS patients with potential private patients and the huge number of steps and processes to complete before even being able to get started. This is where a structured, organised and systematic approach is essential and here we will explain to you some of the key requirements you need to consider before embarking on your private medical practice journey. They differ slightly for NHS consultants and GPs, so we will tackle each of these in turn.


Firstly you will need a registered medical degree, a certificate of completion of specialist training and entry into the specialist register of the General Medical Council. In addition you will need appropriate medical indemnity insurance from a reputable insurance company, usually in the region of £10M in cover).

Often doctors think that the Medical Defence Union or the Medical Protection Society are the only places to go, but in reality there are actually several indemnity companies that you should explore to see who can provide the most competitive cover for your needs. Examples include Premium Medical Protection (PMP) and even more specialised insurers such as Balens, who provide professional liability and malpractice insurance for health and well-being professionals. Shop around and see what works best for your particular circumstances.

Once you have your indemnity insurance sorted you will need to apply for practicing privileges. This is where things can go very wrong and take months and months unless you are systematic and organised in your approach. For example, you must ensure that you are subscribed to the DBS renewal service and have up to date and ready to go mandatory training records and references.

When applying for your practicing privileges it’s important to remember that many hospitals are not always looking for senior consultants, but are often trying to fill gaps in their range of services to patients - think about what skills, knowledge and experience you bring to that particular hospital and how you can help them. An amazing and new robotic surgery service may be more interesting to talk about at a dinner party, but actually for a hospital a rapid access chest pain clinic is likely to be much more relevant for them, with large volumes of potential patients.

Once practicing privileges are granted, you will then need to register with the Information Commissioner (your ICO registration) and then register with all the major health insurers for what is known as provider recognition. This is a critical step and the importance of maintaining a complete, current and accurate BUPA finder profile, and agreeing to be fee assured, can not be underestimated.

Many consultants have the misguided belief that by not agreeing to the insurer fees they may generate more income. But what is often forgotten is the way patients are seeking their care now. Gone are the days where GP’s referred their patients to a named consultant. Instead many patients now seek an online consultation with providers such as Livi, Babylon and others. Most of these are affiliated with insurers who use complex algorithms to prioritise referrals to fee assured specialists and those that have certain “badges”, such as a breast specialist or JAG accredited endoscopist.

Once these administrative steps have been taken, many consultants can set up their practice relatively cheaply with a virtual PA service, practice management software such as HeyDoc and a compelling website that they can easily create themselves.  Heydoc allows you to embed online booking calendars directly into your website allowing patients to book directly into your clinic and even pay for it up front using online payment providers such as Stripe. You will need to be aware of the data protection act and data protections rules under GDPR when collecting patient information online and ensure that any website cookies also comply with such regulations. Don't forget the growing importance of telemedicine and check out our article which goes into detail about how to incorporate telemedicine into your practice

The final thing we wanted to highlight is how to stay on top of the financial management of your practice. Many consultants will register a private limited company which has many benefits, including a more tax efficient way for you to offset your business costs against revenue and opportunities to expand your business with loans or even investment from private investors. Registering a limited company is a relatively simple process that you can do yourself online.

Billing has become more complicated recently and you have to register with the Private Practice Register and Healthcode. Virtually all of the bills you submit will be submitted online. Outsourcing your billing to specialist third party billing companies such as Medical Billing Direct will save you time and money in the long run. But you must also be familiar with billing principles and billing codes because if you do not get it right the first time, billing queries can quickly lead to you facing cash flow issues as debts become aged.

You can also outsource your admi work such as typing to a company like Outsec and having a cloud phone based solution like BT Halo for business can mean you can run your practice without physical permanent consulting rooms or office whilst you are starting out. It can be tempting to accept your local Private Hospital’s offer of secretarial support but remember they are not doing it to help you out, they want you to be tied to them!. You will be billed for consulting rooms you rent by the hour at every Private Hospital so use your time effectively when you are there.


For GP’s in private practice, there are a few key differences.

Firstly you will need to consider where you want to work and this may involve registration with the CQC or Care Quality Commission. There are actually quite a few private hospitals who have a private GP service, but there are also GP’s setting up CQC registered practices in pharmacies, dental surgeries and other suitable premises. The opportunity to create a business, offer a range of services and add branches and grow can be exciting and financially rewarding but needs careful planning with meticulous attention to regulation, policies and procedures.

There are also GP’s setting up purely online business’s with remote consulting and specialities such as functional medicine and menopause are two good examples of this. In addition, organisations like Clinical Education are now delivering courses like the Prescribing Liefstyle Medicine course to get GP’s started on this path.

Just remember, if you are a GP partner you cannot offer private care to your own practice patients, so the salaried, locum and other portfolio GP’s have an advantage with flexible working hours and the ability to develop parallel business relationships.

While we have tried to cover a lot here, there is still many other small but important things that you need to get right. Hopefully this gives you a clearer idea on how to set up a private medical practice as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Do you want to create a fully booked private medical practice without working any evenings or weekends? 

With over 50 on-demand videos, templates and guides, our on-demand course covers everything from:

  • how to navigate CQC registration and fast-track your practicing privileges
  • detailed walkthrough of how to create your own website and embed an automated appointment system
  • how to get patients through the door without spending money on advertising
  • how to project your revenue and costs and maximise your profits
  • and much, much more

We look forward to seeing you there!

Giles and Tom

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