Whether you have private medical insurance or have decided to self-pay for private treatment, your choice of doctor or surgeon can have a huge impact on the success of your treatment, and how comfortable and confident you feel throughout.

The best private doctor or surgeon for you will very much be a personal choice, depending on your own individual priorities and concerns. If you’re having a relatively routine procedure the experience of your surgeon may not be as important as, say, the reputation of his hospital for post-op infections. However, if you’re having more complex surgery, an experienced, skilled surgeon with a proven track record is vital.

The internet holds the details of hundreds of private doctors and surgeons, with many sites offering listings by specialty, such as our database of UK doctors, as well as postcode search facilities. But how do you choose between them? Broadly, private doctors can be assessed in two ways – practical and personal.

This article is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

Practical considerations when choosing

Naturally, there are a few basic considerations when choosing a private healthcare professional. The most important of these is whether or not they are registered with the General Medical Council, and the relevant professional body for their specialist field. This can easily be checked on the internet.

While you‘re online you can also check out the latest inspection report on your chosen private doctor’s practice from the Healthcare Commission. This covers thirty-two core standards and a range of service-specific standards, giving you an independent assessment of each clinic.

Beyond this, you can ask the doctor about any further qualifications or experience he or she has, and how long they’ve been practicing. If you’re looking for a surgeon, you can also ask how many times they’ve performed the procedure and what their success rates are.

Many clinics will also post their own patient feedback and satisfaction scores, although these will not be independent.

Another important consideration when selecting a private surgeon is the availability of emergency or intensive care beds should anything go wrong. Many small private hospitals do not have these facilities. You should also ask about who will pay for this kind of additional treatment if it’s required.

Personal considerations when choosing

Practical thoughts aside, it is just as important that you feel comfortable and confident in your chosen doctor or surgeon. Therefore, you should try to arrange a consultation so you can get to know them a little, and make sure you’re happy with their approach and attitude. Bedside manner may seem a small consideration compared to surgical skill, but it’s an important one if you want to feel at ease.

If, for any reason, you do not feel completely comfortable with your private doctor or surgeon, then walk away and look elsewhere. There is nothing to be gained by going into a procedure worrying or unable to ask questions when you need to. There are plenty of other practitioners to choose from.

In the same way, the support of your family and friends is an important part of your recovery, so you’ll probably want to choose a clinic near to your home so they’re able to visit. This is also the case if you need to make regular out-patient visits. The convenience of your second choice surgeon may outweigh the professional benefits.

What to do next

Based on the considerations above, you should look on the internet and draw up a shortlist of possible private doctors or surgeons to see. Your GP may be able to help you with this. Then try and make an appointment to talk to each one.

Many of us can be a little overawed during a consultation with a highly qualified medical professional, and may forget to ask a question that’s very important. So before you start your search, make a list of all the issues you want to discuss. Don’t be afraid to take this list along with you to make sure you get all your questions answered.

Remember, only you will know which doctor or surgeon is right for you, so take your time and don’t be pressured into making a decision. A little time spent making your choice can yield big rewards when it comes to your treatment.

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