Did you know that in many cases you have the legal right to choose where you have your NHS treatment? The NHS is offering more and more options to enable you to make choices that best suit your circumstances, giving you greater control of your care and hopefully better results.

You can view what choices are currently available to NHS patients in the NHS Choice Framework on GOV.UK. Here you’ll also find information about when you can’t choose, for example, if you need emergency care or if you are a member of the armed forces. Make sure you know which options apply to you.

Did you know?

If your GP needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition then 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. For more information see our sections about choosing a hospital or consultant and choosing a mental health service.

You can book your appointment via the NHS e-Referral service. You can book while you are 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 agree the shortlist, you and your GP can compare information about hospitals or consultants on this website, including quality outcomes, waiting times, parking and travel. Simply use the Services near you option available at the top of page to ensure you can 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 are likely to wait longer than the maximum waiting time specified for your treatment. The hospital or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will have to investigate and offer you a range of suitable alternative hospitals or clinics that would be able to see you sooner. Read the guide to waiting times for more information.

What can I do if I am not offered choice?

You should always be offered 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 choice, you should speak to the person who is referring you in the first instance.

If you still feel that you have not been offered choice, you could complain to your CCG as they must ensure you are offered a choice. Find details for your local CCG.

If your CCG is unable to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction, you are entitled to take your complaint to the Independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. For more information see our guide to the NHS complaints procedureYou will also find guidance in section 13 of the NHS Choice Framework.

The future of patient choice in the NHS

The NHS is working hard to improve the opportunities for patients to make choices about their care.

By 2020 NHS England wants all patients to be able to say:

  • I have discussed with my GP/healthcare professional the different options available to me, including the pros and cons and, where appropriate, whether to choose not to have treatment.
  • I was offered appropriate choices of where to go for my care or tests.
  • I was given an opportunity to choose a suitable alternative provider because I was going to wait longer than the maximum waiting time specified in my legal rights.
  • Information to help me make my decisions was available and I knew where to find it in a format that was accessible to me.
  • I was given sufficient time to consider what was right for me.

This information is available on the NHS Choices with further information which may be useful to you relating to what is offered through Patient Choice. The NHS Choices website is here: http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx