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 choose which consultant-led team, or clinically appropriate team led by a named healthcare professional, will be in charge of your treatment for your first appointment at the hospital. You will be seen by the consultant or by a doctor who works with the consultant in their team. There are some healthcare services where you cannot make choices and these can be explained by your GP.
The hospital you choose for your first outpatient appointment is most likely the same place you'll receive treatment, should you need it. Evidence shows that if you choose a hospital where you feel comfortable and confident, you're likely to improve both the result of your treatment and your experience while you're in hospital.
You should therefore think about any treatment that could follow on when your GP refers you. For example, if you expect to be prescribed a simple course of medication, your choice of hospital may be based largely on convenience, such as how far away the hospital is, waiting times and parking facilities.
If you're likely to need an operation, such as a hip replacement, your choice will probably be based on other factors. Clinical ratings such as infection and mortality rates may be more important, especially if results vary significantly between hospitals. You should choose your hospital according to what's most important to you. Choosing the hospital that's best for you is a personal decision. Discuss your choice with your GP before they refer you to a specialist. If you don't wish to make a decision there and then, you can take away information about hospitals and decide later.
Rights to choice in mental health
Legal rights to choice have been introduced in mental health as part of the drive to achieve parity with physical health. The legal rights cover:
- Choice of mental healthcare provider
- Choice of mental healthcare team
To support commissioners, referrers and providers NHS England has developed guidance on implementing patients’ legal rights to choose the provider and team for their mental health care. This gives a description and interpretation of the legal rights to help support consistent application of the rights across the mental health sector. Alongside the guidance a number of clinical scenarios have been published to provide examples of how and when choice may apply for a range of patients accessing mental health services.