North East Essex out-of-hours
North East Essex out-of-hours

Patient Choice – what choice do you have when it comes to the referral of your NHS treatment?

June 27 2017

Did you know you have the right to choose where to have your NHS surgery?

It isn’t a widely known fact, but if you or a loved one needs to be referred to an NHS specialist, you can choose to access any hospital or treatment centre in England. As long as the facility provides services to the NHS and offers the treatment you require, choosing where to have your NHS treatment gives you greater control of your care and hopefully better outcomes.

Clinicians and researchers agree that if you choose a hospital in which you feel comfortable and confident, you are likely to improve both the result of your treatment and your experience while you’re in hospital. We have been making a real effort to promote patient choice to the public, and help educate them on their right to choose, so we thought we would do the same for our colleagues who may not fully understand how to choose the path that’s right for them.

Choosing the best place to have your treatment can seem like a daunting task, but you don’t have to make the choice alone. Your GP will be able to advise you on the different options available and the internet is a great place for further research too. The NHS Choices website (link) can provide you with information about the organisations you can choose from.

Though we are all different in what factors matter to us when it comes to picking the right hospital, a good place to start is looking into the simpler things such as, how easy it is for you to get to the hospital, whether there is free parking, what the facilities are like and how long the waiting times are.

When you have made the choice of where you would like to receive your NHS treatment, the next step is to visit your GP and ask to be referred. If the GP agrees that your choice of hospital is suitable for your healthcare needs, your referral can be made.

When Matthew McCann, senior marketing executive at Care UK, needed to be referred for a knee operation, he knew exactly where he wanted to go:

“In 2009 I damaged my knee playing football. After seeing a consultant and having an MRI scan, I found out that I needed an operation to correct it. This was all recorded in my GP records. When I went to my GP in 2015, I knew I could ask to be referred to a centre of my choice for the op.

“I initially came across a bit of resistance from my GP as they believed the Referral Management Centre (RMC) would choose the best place for me. However, I was successful in exerting my right to choose and the GP made a recommendation of my preferred choice to the RMC, who honoured it. But it did make me think that there must be a lot of people who don’t understand patient choice, and might be missing out on that opportunity.”

If you or a loved one need surgery and already know which hospital you would like to attend for your treatment, remember your rights around patient choice and ask your GP to refer you to your preferred choice of facility. Help us to spread the word too – make sure your friends and family all understand the benefits of patient choice and make the right decisions for their individual needs!