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BLOG: Your health, your choice!

03 September 2019

Having choices allows us to be more independent and in control of our lives. This applies to accessing NHS services just as much as it does in other areas of life.

Being able to make decisions about where and when they are treated empowers people to take control of their healthcare. That is why patient choice is a legal right and forms such an important part of the NHS Constitution and Long Term Plan.

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups have been working closely with a group of patients to promote greater awareness of the options people have when accessing NHS services.  

So what choices are available?

You can register with a GP practice of your choice, as long as you live within the practice boundary and it has the capacity to take on new patients. You can even ask to see a particular doctor or nurse at the GP practice; for instance, some women prefer to see a female doctor. The practice must make every effort to enable you to see the clinician you have asked for, although there are occasions when this might not always be possible.

Who, where and when?

If you are referred for non-emergency tests or treatment for a physical or mental health condition, your GP will usually select a hospital or treatment centre in your local area. However, you can ask your GP to be referred to another hospital if that is your wish. You can even choose the medical team that cares for you, led by a named consultant or other healthcare professional.

Your choice can be based on what is important to you. This could be quality of service; your previous experience at a named hospital; the opinion of other patients; the service being closer to where you work; or shorter waiting times.

Waiting for a hospital appointment can be a worrying experience, even if the wait doesn’t exceed the NHS maximum of 18 weeks. To reduce waiting time, you can ask your GP if it’s possible to be seen more quickly at another hospital.

You can choose any hospital in the country, including a private hospital as long as it’s been commissioned to deliver the NHS service you require. Having nationwide choice is a major advantage for people who have moved some distance away from their home town and wish to receive treatment closer to their families.

Protected by law

Your GP will be able to provide you with the information needed to help you decide on where you want to be treated. Alternatively, visit www.nhs.uk/service-search which provides details about the operations and treatments, quality of care, waiting times, parking and travel for every hospital and other NHS services in the country.

If you feel you’ve not been given a reasonable choice, talk to your GP or visit www.gov.uk and search for “The NHS Choice Framework” where you will find information on what to do.

Patient choice in the NHS is protected by law. Make sure you know what choices are available and take more control over your and your family’s healthcare.

For more information visit www.nhs.uk/patientchoice 

John Bunn
Programme Manager
Personalised Care Programme
Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System

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