Patient choice

What is hospital choice?

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.

If you want to find out more you can visit the NHS website

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.

Most people say that it is helpful to be able to choose where and when they access NHS services. Even if you don’t mind where you go, it is important that you know you have a choice.

What if I don’t want to choose?

Don’t worry. 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?

You do not need to choose straight away. You can take away information about hospitals and decide in the next few days.

Once I’ve made my choice, how do I book a hospital appointment?

Your GP practice may book your hospital appointment for you. Otherwise they will give you information on how to book your hospital appointment yourself. If your GP refers you through Choose and Book, you’ll be given a password and reference number that allow you to book your appointment online or over the phone.

Do I have to pay if I choose a hospital?

There are no costs involved if you’re an NHS patient. All the hospitals that you can choose from provide treatments to NHS patients free of charge, including the independent hospitals.

Is hospital choice available to everybody?

A choice of hospital is available to most patients and in most circumstances. Some exceptions include referral to mental health services or where you need to be seen urgently. You can find out more on the NHS website

What else should I think about?

You will need to think about the things that matter to you when you make your choice, and remember that you will probably have to return to the same hospital if you need any further appointments. Talk to your GP if you have any questions.

What can I do if I am not offered a choice of hospital?

If you feel you are not offered a choice when you are referred to hospital, talk to your GP.  If you have any further questions about being offered a choice of hospital, contact your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 0800 5873089.

Where can I find information to help choose a hospital?

The Find and Choose Hospitals service on the NHS website allows you to compare hospitals on a wide range of factors, including:

  • overall quality of service
  • waiting times
  • location
  • infection rates
  • parking facilities
  • disabled access

The service also allows you to search according to the operations and treatments that hospitals offer.

More information?

To find out more about choosing your hospital, visit the NHS website or ask at your GP practice. You can compare hospitals by using the hospital comparison tool on the NHS website.  

If you need help using the internet, your local library is a good place to start. Many libraries have staff who are specially trained to assist you, including finding information about choosing hospitals.