Choice in the NHS

Did you know that in many cases you have the legal right to choose where you have your NHS treatment? The NHS gives options to help you to make choices that best suit your circumstances. The aim is to give you greater control of your care – and hopefully better results.

You can view what choices are currently available to NHS patients by taking a look at the NHS Choice Framework on the NHS England website (opens in a new window). In the NHS Choice Framework you will also find information about when you can’t choose – for example, if you need emergency care or you’re a member of the armed forces. It is important to make sure you know which options apply to you.

If your GP or health professional needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition, in most cases you have the legal right to choose the hospital or service you’d like to go to. This will include many private hospitals as long as they provide services to the NHS and it doesn’t cost the NHS any more than a referral to a traditional NHS hospital.

You can also choose a clinical team led by a consultant or named healthcare professional, as long as that team provides the treatment you require. Find out more about choosing a hospital or consultant on the NHS website (opens in a new window). The NHS website also has information about choosing and accessing mental health services (opens in a new window).

You can book your appointment via the NHS e-Referral service website (opens in a new window). It can be done while you’re at the GP surgery, or online, using the shortlist of hospitals or services provided in your appointment request letter. The shortlist is selected by your GP, so make sure you tell them about your preferences during the appointment

To inform your selection you can use the NHS services finder on the NHS website (opens in a new window) to help you make an informed decision before booking. You have the legal right to ask for your appointment to be moved to a different provider if you’re likely to wait longer than the maximum waiting time specified for your treatment.

There are nine minimum standards we must adhere to

  1. publicising and promoting patients’ legal rights to choice
  2. making service information available through the NHS e-Referral Service (opens in a new window) and the NHS website (opens in a new window)
  3. reviewing referral, activity and choice trends
  4. considering broadening the choice offer where patients will benefit
  5. ensuring that, for any services where patients have legal rights to choice, any provider of these services that meets the relevant criteria is made available for patients to choose from
  6. ensuring that patients are offered a choice of provider and team for a first appointment upon referral to an elective service
  7. using the NHS e-Referral Service
  8. acceptance of all clinically appropriate referrals
  9. where notified that a patient will not be treated within maximum waiting times, commissioners must ensure that the patient is offered an appointment with a suitable alternative provider(s).

What to do if you are not offered choice

You should always be offered a choice at the point of referral and have the opportunity to discuss the options with the person referring you.

If you feel you haven’t been offered a choice, we encourage you to speak to the person who has referred you first. This is usually your GP or hospital clinician.

After speaking to the person who has referred you, if you still feel that you haven’t been offered a choice, you could speak to our Patient Support Line, as a Clinical Commissioning Group we must ensure patients are given choices.

You can find out how to get in touch with our Patient Support Line here, this page also gives further information about how to raise a concern, complaint or compliment.

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