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Patient choice

Your right to choose

If your GP needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition, in most cases you have a legal right to choose which hospital or service you go to. This includes NHS and many private hospitals that provide services to the NHS. You may also choose your clinical team led by a consultant or named healthcare professional.

GP surgeries tend to refer to local hospitals and services, however if you want to be referred somewhere else in the country or if you want your doctor to see if there is another hospital that can see you more quickly, ask your GP. If your GP thinks there is a clinical reason why you shouldn’t go somewhere else, they will tell you.

You can choose a hospital or service based on whatever matters most to you – this could include waiting times, quality of service, your previous experience, the views of other patients, the location or your GP’s recommendation.

  • You can ask your GP about what might be the best choice for you, once you tell them what matters to you most.
  • You can compare information about hospitals, services and consultants here on the NHS website. This includes information about quality of care, waiting times, parking and travel. You can also search to see what operations and treatments each hospital offers.

You can book your appointment while you are at the surgery, online or over the phone. You’ll be given a password and reference number to book your appointment.

Your GP will give you a shortlist of hospitals or services in your ‘appointment request’ letter, so it's important to tell your GP if you have preferences.

Most patients can choose a hospital or service in most circumstances. There are some exceptions - for example, if you are in the armed forces or need to be seen urgently.

You have a legal right to choose where you are referred to for your first outpatient appointment if:

  • Your GP needs to refer you for non-emergency treatment or tests
  • You are not a member of the armed forces, a prisoner or on temporary release from prison
  • You are not detained under the Mental Health Act, in a secure hospital setting or other prescribed accommodation

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