The NHS Constitution sets out when you have a legal right to choice about treatment and care in the NHS. Although the legal right to choice doesn’t apply to all healthcare services, even when you don’t have the legal right to choice, you should still be offered some choices depending on what’s available locally.
Once you have had a discussion with your doctor about what treatment is right for you, you then have the right (in the majority of cases) to choose where you go for that treatment.
What choices do we have?
When making a choice about where you go for treatment, you’ll often discuss the options with your doctor or another healthcare professional.
If you need to go to hospital to see a specialist, you have the right to choose which hospital you’re referred to by your GP. This legal right lets you choose from any hospital offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs.
You also have the right to request which consultant and team will be in charge of your treatment for your first appointment at the hospital.
The hospital you choose for your first appointment is likely to be the same place you’ll receive treatment, should you need it. You should therefore think about any treatment that could follow on from your initial appointment, and where you would like that to be carried out, when you make your choice.
There are some healthcare services where you cannot make choices, such as cancer services, maternity, and specialist services.
Sometimes they will make the referral at your appointment after discussing the options with you, but on other occasions you will be able to book yourself using the NHS e-Referral system.
Websites to help you make a choice
There are a number of websites that can help you to find out more about places where you could be treated, helping you to make a decision on where to be referred:
- NHS website: the national NHS website holds a lot of information to help you make choices, including directories of NHS services across England and patient feedback and comments on services across the country.
- Care Opinion: an independent website that shares patients’ experiences of health services across the country. Read what others have said about services you are considering.
- iWantGreatCare: ratings and reviews from patients about NHS hospitals, GP surgeries, dental surgeries, community services, nursing homes, and hospices.