Is there a private A&E in the UK?

Chris Steele
Founder and Editor
Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.
Chris Steele
Reviewed by
Reviewed by
Updated on
May 8, 2024

If you or a loved one are seriously injured, you want to know that good quality medical care will be available quickly. You may wonder whether a private option is available. Here's our guide to private emergency care and the circumstances where you'll still need to rely on the NHS.

As seen in:
As seen in

What is A&E for?

The A&E department at an NHS hospital will treat you for severe and life-threatening conditions, injuries, and less serious conditions. Your waiting time typically depends on the severity of your condition. For example, you'll be seen more quickly if you're experiencing a heart attack or have lost consciousness than if you have a sprained ankle.

A&E will treat wounds that won't stop bleeding, breathing difficulties and severe burns. You'll have access to medical professionals ranging from paramedics and nurses to radiographers, anaesthetists and specialist doctors. It's also open 24/7, 365 days per year.

Are there any alternatives to A&E?

Your GP should be the first port of call for routine medical issues. However, if you have an acute injury that doesn't warrant a visit to A&E, you can also go to a walk-in or urgent care centre, which may be at a local hospital or in a separate unit. The staff there can assess you and decide whether you need to transfer to A&E, for example, because you need an x-ray. 

You can also use the NHS 111 service for guidance. Their clinicians can provide self-care advice and signpost you to appropriate services. They can also book you an emergency appointment or even send an ambulance if needed.

myTribe Icon

Is there private A&E?

Private hospitals don't have A&E departments in the same way that NHS hospitals do. However, some have urgent care centres where you can seek treatment instead of going to an NHS walk-in centre.

Urgent care centres don't treat life-threatening conditions. If you suspect a stroke, have severe and persistent bleeding or a head injury, you'll need to go to A&E.

Busy Nurse's Station In Modern Hospital

How does the walk-in urgent care centre work?

One of the main differences between A&E and private urgent care centres is that you can't call an ambulance to take you to a private hospital.

A private walk-in centre can still treat severe conditions, such as burns, wounds, breathing difficulties and sports injuries. They can also help you with more routine problems, such as ear, nose, and throat and stomach complaints. Some centres also offer private vaccinations.

Do you need to make an appointment?

Some centres offer walk-in services where you don't need to make an appointment, while others ask you to call ahead. Check your local clinic to see what they offer.

myTribe Icon

Benefits of private urgent care centres

Private walk-in centres offer several advantages, including:

  • Shorter waiting times
  • No need for an appointment in some hospitals
  • More time with your doctor
  • Access to a private room
  • Hotel-like facilities 
myTribe Icon


Whilst private urgent care centres offer several advantages, there are some drawbacks.

  • No treatment for life-threatening injuries or illnesses
  • Fixed opening hours - private care isn't available 24/7
  • You'll need to pay a fee, even if you have private health insurance.
Busy hospital reception with diverse group of patients in waiting room area

How much does it cost?

Private medical insurance doesn't cover emergency care, so you'll need to pay for your appointment even if you have insurance.

As you might expect, costs vary depending on where you are in the country, but your initial consultation will typically cost between £115 and £120, rising to £150 if you need an appointment for a child. There are also specialist emergency clinics. An emergency consultation at Moorfields Private Eye Hospital will set you back £263. These prices don't include any investigations, for example, blood tests or scans.

 Most centres also apply a cancellation fee, so there'll be an extra charge if you call to make an appointment and don't attend.

myTribe Icon

Further treatment

If you attend your private appointment and need further treatment, you'll have a choice over what to do next. You can opt for private care via your health insurance if you have it or on a self-funded basis. Your doctors can offer private onward referrals to an appropriate specialist consultant if that's the case.

Alternatively, you can ask for a referral to your GP for NHS treatment.

myTribe Icon

Private urgent care centre locations

You'll only be able to access the benefits of a private urgent care centre if there's one within travelling distance. There are several across London, in Manchester, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Southampton. The Portland Hospital in London has a centre just for children.

Unfortunately, this means that this service may not be accessible if you live elsewhere in the country.

HCA Healthcare and other providers offer services in London, and you can also find urgent care centres on the south coast and in other major cities.

myTribe Icon

Waiting times

NHS A&E departments aim to see and admit patients within four hours of arrival. In 2021-2022, 76.7% of patients spent less than 4 hours in A&E. However, recent monthly figures suggest that more people are going to A&E and waiting times are increasing. Consider whether your injury or illness needs a trip to A & E or whether a local walk-in centre can help.

You'll likely be seen more quickly if you make a private appointment. The centre at the Alexandra Hospital in Manchester aims to see patients within 15 minutes of arrival.

myTribe Icon

Getting professional advice on private healthcare

If NHS waiting times are giving you cause for concern, a private urgent care centre could be a viable option if you need quick care for an illness or injury. You can also pay privately for other types of treatment, including surgery.

While health insurance won't cover the costs of your appointment at an urgent care centre, it can cover you for other types of healthcare if you need further investigations or treatment.

A broker can help you by sourcing quotes tailored to your circumstances and guiding you through the process to help you find the right health insurance.

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

This article was written by:
Chris Steele
Founder and Editor

Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a private alternative to A&E?

Down arrow icon

Some private hospitals have urgent care centres where you can seek emergency treatment for conditions including sporting injuries, wounds and breathing difficulties. However, they can't treat life-threatening injuries or illnesses like A&E can. They also have restricted opening hours instead of a 24/7, 365-day-a-year service.

How do urgent care centres work?

Down arrow icon

Urgent care centres can provide quick, high-quality care for various ailments upon payment of a fixed fee. Each provider has its own way of working. Some allow you to turn up without an appointment, while others ask that you call first so that they can confirm whether they're able to treat you and give you an appointment time.

I have health insurance. Will it cover my private urgent care appointment?

Down arrow icon

No. Health insurance has standard exclusions, and emergency care typically isn't covered, although some policies cover emergency dental treatment. You'll need to pay the cost of your emergency appointment yourself, although you may be covered for further treatment, depending on your policy.

Save up to 37%* on your insurance by comparing policies

Compare Now

Compare Now
Google Review Star icon
Google Review Star icon
Google Review Star icon
Google Review Star icon
Google Review Star icon
Rated on
arrow pointing upsend icon
myTribe logo icon
phone icon