Choosing the specialist to give you treatment for what might be a complex illness, can seem to be a daunting prospect – but it needn’t be.

In most cases your GP will know the most appropriate consultant for you to see and he or she will base their decision on the experience and track record of the consultant and how that matches your clinical needs. Your GP will also consider where the consultant has a practice and how convenient that may be – especially for follow up visits and check-ups while you are recuperating.

The links between your family GP and your consultant are a very important aspect of private healthcare. It means that you will be referred to the most appropriate specialist on the basis of your clinical need and for no other reason.

However, you do have a right to have your say in the choice and it may be the case that your GP may not have a preference for a particular consultant physician or specialist surgeon. In that case – particularly in the case of elective treatment such as plastic or cosmetic surgery – you may wish to, or have to, choose a consultant yourself.

There is a website that promises to develop into a very useful aid to you and to your GP in comparing performance data in private healthcare.  That is the PHIN website but it will not have consultant outcome data until some time in 2017.  There are ten ‘procedures’ for which the NHS publishes outcome data for consultants. Interpretation isn’t easy.  Our view is that these are useful data – most private consultants work in the NHS and comparisons are valid – but, unless you are especially familiar with all this, it will make more sense to your GP than to you. Ask for advice – but have a look at the relevant NHS Choices page.

Even if you hear of a consultant through a friend or relative and the reports are positive, do research the consultant on the Internet. He or she may have a website possibly citing published papers which he or she may have written. There may be press reports, magazine articles or there may be social media ‘chat’ about a certain doctor. Worth looking round.

If you are concerned whether a particular consultant is properly qualified and is a member of a General Medical Council specialist register, you can go on line and check the person out. In the case of some disciplines, such as cardiac surgery, there are specific tables of ‘outcomes’, the success record of every cardiac surgeon, but these are only a guide and frequently do not show the reasons for certain trends.

Don’t forget, if you make an appointment to see the consultant and you feel you do not communicate well or like him or her, you can, and probably should, look elsewhere. It will not help you if you have concerns about a surgeon before you are due to have surgery!

One more important thing, do check charges before you agree to a procedure. Most private hospital websites have ‘self pay’ prices published – along with other information on the consultants available.  If you are insured, find out if all or part of the cost is covered and approved by your insurer before you go into hospital or even see the consultant.

You might look at the Bupa “finder’ site but do remember that this is not impartial – consultants edit their own profiles – however there is still quite a lot of helpful information. There is also the new FindMeHealth site which may prove to be a useful resource.  PPF does not endorse either of these sites – just signposts them so that you can judge.

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