Family Healthcare - The options

When it comes to looking after your family’s health, there’s no compromising - you want the best possible care for you and your kids. Here’s our guide to choosing high quality health and dental services to suit you and your family.

 

Choosing a GP
As the first port of call for all matters health-related, your GP is key to your family’s wellbeing. You can register with any GP as long as you live within the catchment area. The easiest way to find NHS practices close to you is to use the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk, which will tell you whether your local surgeries are accepting new patients. You can also use it to check which services are on offer – for example, if one of your kids has asthma, you might want access to a specialist asthma clinic, and if you regularly jet off to far-flung places, a travel clinic might be handy. Most surgeries also produce a leaflet outlining what they can do for you. Think about opening hours too. If you work, a visit to the doctor will be less of a scramble if you can make appointments in the early morning, evening or at the weekend.

Last, but not least, you need to feel comfortable with your GP. Would you like to be registered with a female doctor? Do you speak another language or want someone who understands your cultural background? Check whether a practice can accommodate your preferences.

Quality of care
You want to be sure you and your family will get the highest standards of medical care. To find out whether your GP practice follows evidence-based guidelines, and whether it will give you a full 10-minute consultation if you need it, visit the Quality and Outcomes Framework website at www.qof.ic.nhs.uk and search for the surgery you’re interested in. Most practices take part in this voluntary scheme, which rewards GPs for meeting certain standards in a range of areas from clinical to organisational. Every practising doctor must be registered. To check the registration for individual GPs, visit the General Medical Council (GMC) at www.gmc-uk.org.

Patient satisfaction
Once you have a short-list, you can compare patient satisfaction results for each practice you’re considering. Take a look at issues, such as ease of booking, cleanliness, staff friendliness and parking. This information is readily available on NHS Choices, but if you don’t have online access, the individual surgeries should be able to answer your questions. If you’re not happy with your choice of GP, you can change at any time.

Private medical care
You may prefer to go private if you like to see your GP during your lunch break in town, you want to skip the NHS wait or you’re looking for a second opinion. You can see a GP, consultant, surgeon or almost any other health professional privately. You’ll get fast access and a choice of who to see – although at a cost.

There are two ways to access private care. One is to have private health insurance. You’ll pay a monthly fee and if you need to see a doctor, they will organise payment. Make sure you call them before your appointment to check that they cover the care you want. Different payment policies offer access to different levels of care, and you can opt to cover specific conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

Alternatively, you can pay the healthcare provider directly. Costs vary hugely depending on the treatment. For example, a first appointment with a private consultant costs around £100, a CT scan might cost £350 to £650, and giving birth at a private hospital may set you back between £7,500 and £10,000.

However you pay, you will usually need to ask your GP for a referral letter, except for physiotherapy, health screening, cosmetic surgery and dental services. Your GP may be able to recommend a private doctor, or you can find one yourself. A good place to start is www.privatehealth.co.uk, which has lists of clinics and individual doctors. Do your homework before going ahead with any kind of private treatment. Make sure your health professional is registered with the relevant professional organisation, for example, doctors must be registered with the GMC. And don’t be afraid to ask about training and experience. Check that any health service you plan to use is registered and licensed to carry out treatment. To do this, visit the Care Quality Commission at www.cqc.org.uk and search for the clinic in the care directory.

 

Choosing a dentist
The NHS Choices website has a list of local dental practices, and information on whether they are taking on new NHS patients. It can also give you information on extra services offered, so think about what’s important to you in a dentist. Some dental practices run special services to help with anxiety, for example. It’s a good idea to check that their opening times fit with your family’s busy work and school commitments.

Quality control
Dentists have to be registered with the General Dental Council and agree to their code of behaviour in order to practice. To check whether your dentist is registered, visit www.gdc-uk.org. The British Dental Association also runs a ‘Good Practice’ scheme, which requires members to meet certain standards in patient care. These include good infection control, good communication and patient comfort. A list of Good Practice members is available on the British Dental Association website at www.bdasmile.org. You can find out how other patients rate your local surgeries via the NHS Choices website. If the information is missing, call the surgery and ask for the results of recent patient satisfaction surveys.

Registering for treatment on the NHS doesn’t mean that your dental care will be free, but it will be cheaper than going private. Treatments on the NHS are £16.50 for a check-up, £45.60 for an amalgam filling and £198 for crowns and bridges. Dental care is free for children, pregnant women and women with a baby younger than a year old.

Going private
If your local practice is not accepting new NHS patients, you’ll have to look further afield, or go down the pricier route. A private check-up will set you back around £20 to 25, a white filling in the region of £120 and crowns and bridges about £500. You can pay the practice directly, or opt for a dental insurance plan, such as Denplan. There are various types of plans, which may give you just discounted treatment or cover everything from check-ups to full dentures.

By looking carefully at all the options, you and your family will be able to enjoy peace of mind and, hopefully, have confidence in your care.

Words: Jane McQueen


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