Who can start a private medical practice?

Jan 26, 2022

In theory any doctor who is registered with the General Medical Council (the GMC) can set up a private medical practice. In addition, doctors do not need to tell the GMC that they will be undertaking private work but they will need to ensure that they follow any GMC guidance on the general duties of doctors. 

The large majority of doctors who are undertaking private practice also work in the NHS as consultants. However, there are a small portion of doctors who work in private practice full time, including Giles, the founder of Private Practice Pro. 

In reality though, and in particular at the start, many of you will be trying to juggle both NHS commitments alongside the private work. 

Even though technically anyone can set up in private practice, there are some practical considerations which may end up being blockers. Here are a few things to be aware of when getting started:

Job Titles

There are no specific rules covering job titles but remember the GMC guidelines which state that doctors must not mislead patients. Just ensure your titles is credible with respect to the services you are offering.


It is very important that you have an adequate level of indemnity cover from one of the medical defence bodies, as your NHS indemnity will not cover private work. You should check out Medical Defence Union and Medical Protection Society.  


It is important for at least one doctor to (who is usually the patient's GP) to have a complete record of the patients healthcare history. If as a specialist you accept patients without a referral, you should make sure that you let the patient's GP know before providing treatment. You should lean in to referrals from GPs to avoid any problems, and encourage the patient to discuss their needs with the GP before being referred to you. 

Recognition with private medical insurers

Patients who receive private healthcare fall into 2 groups: those with private medical insurance (approximately 80%) and those that self fund (approximately 20%). Private medical insurers such as BUPA, AXA, Aviva and so on will only reimburse patient's for their specialist fees if the consultant has been granted specialist recognition with the insurer. So make sure you apply and receive this specialist recognition. 


Consultants are generally free to charge whatever they want for private procedures, but you should make sure your fees are fair for the service you are delivering and should be based on your experience and level of skill. 

You should also make sure that your fees are in agreed in writing in advance of treatment.

Practising privileges

Practising privileges can be temporary or permanent, and when they are permanent they are subject to a review process each year where you agree to the current privileges contract which you will be signing. The granting or refusal of practising privileges is the remit of the medical director of the Hospital under the guidance of the Medical Advisory Committee. In certain circumstances temporary privileges may be assigned to a particular individual, for example a specialist consultant assisting in an unusual or one off operation, but once granted unless you put a major foot wrong it is unusual to have them removed.

Hopefully this gives you a few pointers around who can start in private practice and whether it could be right for you. Don't forget to check out our article on how to start a private practice where we go into more detail on the exact steps you need to take.

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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