When it comes to your health it’s your choice

You have the right to choose where to have specialist NHS treatment. Here’s everything you need to know about Patient Choice…


by take-a-break |
Updated on

Dealing with health problems or waiting for surgery can feel overwhelming and stressful, but having more control over your care can help make the experience less daunting. That’s why the NHS enables you to make choices that best suit your individual circumstances.

If your GP — or another healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist or a nurse — suggests that you see a specialist, you have the right to choose where you would like go based on what matters most to you.

This includes not only NHS hospitals, but also independent sector hospitals if they provide services to the NHS, at no cost to you.


Patient Choice has been around for several years, yet many are not aware that, in England, patients have the right to choose where they are seen. Often, people think they must go to their local hospital, but that’s not the case.

There are multiple reasons why you might want to consider going to a different location. Perhaps you would like to go to a hospital that’s closer to friends and family who can support you during your treatment? Or maybe there’s a hospital that’s easier for you to get to than your nearest one. Alternatively, your priority might be being seen more quickly.
Your GP practice can provide you with a list of options. You can also visit the My Planned Care website (myplannedcare.nhs.uk), where you can compare waiting times for an initial outpatient appointment, and search by region or speciality.

Not only does having more options make for a better experience as a patient, it can also help to ease pressure on parts of the NHS, as it allows you to be seen in a hospital with shorter waiting lists.


Dr Natalie Rout, a GP based in Central London, says “Giving people a choice about where they receive their care gives them autonomy. It increases patient satisfaction, as they are able to make an informed decision about where they are treated. Being part of the decision-making process also means they’re more likely to attend their appointments. I am always upfront with my patients and say ‘Look, this is your closest hospital, however, the waiting time is double that of another hospital. What would you prefer?’ For the majority of my patients, the top two priorities are waiting times and location. Generally, people are surprised and happy when I give them a choice. It means they can use recommendations, do their own research, and see what’s convenient for them. More often than not, though, they know what they want, and they make the decision there and then.”


How Patient Choice works

  1. Your GP or other healthcare professional suggests you need a hospital referral to see a specialist.

  2. For most conditions, you have the right to choose where you have treatment. You can discuss with your GP what is important to you. You will then be given options so you can choose a hospital that best suits you. Your GP or a healthcare professional can help you make your decision.

  3. You can either make your decision there and then during your appointment. Or if you feel that you need more time to consider all your options, you can ask your GP practice to make the list of hospitals available to you. You can then make your decision later via the NHS App, online or by calling the National Referral Helpline.

Remember, the next time your friends or a loved one needs NHS treatment, let them know about their right to choose where they are seen, and encourage them to ask their GP about the options available to them.

To find out more visit nhs.uk/patientchoice

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