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 opinions of other patients, the location or your GP’s recommendation.
Find out more
There are a number of ways you can find out more about hospitals and services:
- 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. This website includes information about the quality of care, waiting times, parking and travel. You can also search according to the operations and treatments that the hospitals or services offer
Once I have made my choice, how do I book a hospital appointment?
You can book your appointment while you are at the surgery, via the NHS e-Referral service or over the phone. Use the shortlist of hospitals or services provided in your ‘appointment request’ letter.
You’ll be given a password and reference number that allows you to book your appointment online or over the phone. The shortlist is selected by your GP so ensure that you tell your GP during the appointment about your preferences.
Is choice available to everybody?
A choice of hospital or service is available to most patients and in most circumstances. There are some exceptions, for example if you are a member of the armed forces or if you 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 1983, in a secure hospital setting or in ‘other prescribed accommodation’
More information is available on the NHS website.
These leaflets also explain more about patient choice: