More than one in four GPs have reported a rise in the number of patients enquiring about private healthcare in the last six months.
A survey found there is an increasing number of GPs recommending patients who require services restricted by the NHS seek private care.
However, it is claimed a "significant gap" still exists between the attitude of the public and GPs over the provision of treatment and access to private healthcare.
While over half (59%) of the public surveyed believe that people who are able to fund their own treatment privately should do so to "relieve the burden on the NHS", only 30% of GPs think that patients who have private medical insurance, or can afford to pay, should be encouraged to pay for their own treatment.
Public perception may also be shifting with more than half (57%) patients surveyed believing private treatment is becoming more popular for "normal" people.
Yet just over one in ten GPs surveyed said they always discuss the option to be treated privately.
"The results of this survey highlights to me that public attitudes towards private healthcare are changing – people are beginning to realise that choosing to be treated privately is not only an option that is open to them, but also that it helps relieve the burden on the NHS," said Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter, Clinical Services Director at Spire Healthcare.
"We hope this trend will be reflected in the advice provided by GPs to patients when considering both NHS and private options that may best meet the needs the needs of their patients."