In addition to specialist appointments and hospital treatment, people commonly use private health treatment to obtain second opinions, health checks and screening, and for complementary medicine (which isn’t usually available under the public health service).
If you need to see a GP or specialist privately, you (or your insurance company) must pay the full fee. Most patients who receive private health treatment in New Zealand have private health insurance, usually in order to circumvent the public health waiting lists for non-emergency specialist appointments and hospital treatment. Private patients are free to choose their own specialist and hospital and are usually accommodated in a single, hotel-style room with a radio, telephone, colour TV, en suite bathroom and room service.
You should check that a doctor or medical practitioner is qualified to provide the treatment you require and, when choosing a private specialist or clinic, only go to one that has been highly recommended by someone you trust. It’s sometimes wise to obtain a second opinion, particularly if you’re diagnosed as having a serious illness or require a major operation (but don’t expect your doctor or specialist to approve). Although it isn't common in New Zealand, unnecessary operations aren’t unknown.
The quality of private treatment isn’t any better than that provided by the public health service and you shouldn’t assume that because a doctor (or any other medical practitioner) is in private practice, he’s more competent than his public health counterpart. In fact you will often see the same specialist or be treated by the same surgeon under the public health service and privately.