Patient choice

Choosing a hospital

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, which was introduced in April 2009, lets you choose from any hospital offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs.

You can choose a hospital according to what matters most to you, whether it’s location, waiting times, reputation, clinical performance, visiting policies, parking facilities or patients’ comments.

Is hospital choice offered in every case?

A choice of hospital is available for most patients and in most circumstances. Exceptions include emergency and urgent services, cancer, maternity and mental health services. If you need to be seen urgently by a specialist (for example, if you have severe chest pain), your GP will send you where you’ll be seen most quickly.

Why should I choose which hospital to go to?

There are many reasons why you might prefer one hospital to another. Location, waiting times, clinical results and parking facilities are just some of the things that patients consider when choosing a hospital. Evidence shows that if you choose a hospital in which you feel comfortable and confident, you’re likely to improve both the result of your treatment and your experience while you’re in hospital.

What if I don’t want to choose?

You don’t have to make the decision yourself. If you prefer, your GP can choose for you.

Do I have to choose straight away?

If your GP wants to refer you to a specialist, you can take away information about hospitals and decide later. In most circumstances, this is the most sensible option.

Which hospital should I choose?

The hospitals you can choose from will depend on the type of specialist you need to see. The choice you make may be based on a wide range of factors, such as location, waiting times, reputation, clinical performance, cleanliness, travel, parking facilities and visiting policies. You can choose your hospital according to what’s most important to you.

For detailed advice on researching hospitals and how to choose the best hospital for you, go to Picking the right hospital.

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