Abstract

Background: The UK's publicly provided National Health Service (NHS) is primarily publicly funded but treats some private-pay patients (PPPs). Little is known about impacts of treating PPPs within publicly provided health systems. This study explores NHS health professionals' experiences and understanding of this phenomenon.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with NHS clinicians. The interview transcripts were then thematically analyzed.

Results: A total of 17 clinicians highlighted potential impacts in five areas: (1) availability of resources for non-urgent, publicly funded patients, (2) patient safety for publicly funded patients and PPPs, (3) health professional training, (4) NHS finances, and (5) NHS direction setting and values.

Conclusions: In a publicly provided health service that is increasingly treating PPPs, clinicians had limited knowledge of policies for PPP care. Clinicians were concerned about patient safety impacts of prioritizing PPPs over publicly funded patients. Potential cross-subsidies from public to private funding were mooted. The issues raised here require further exploration and may inform research and policy development in the UK and other countries.