‘Patient Choice allows you to have a say in where you go for hospital treatment’

Linda Cottrell

by that-life |
Updated on

Linda Cottrell, 58, from London, initially went to see her GP about a condition she suffers from called ulcerative colitis, which is inflammation of the lower end of your digestive system, including your large bowel and rectum.

Her GP suggested she should see a specialist to help her keep her symptoms at bay and to discuss medication to help manage her condition.

Linda says: ‘Patient Choice allows you to have a say in where you go for hospital treatment. It’s like being in the driver’s seat, deciding where you get your treatment to fit your preferences and needs.’
Linda was given a choice of hospitals to go to.

She explains: ‘My GP gave me a variety of different hospitals I could choose from, also taking into consideration my location.

‘I personally wanted to be able to see someone who I felt really understood what I was going through and had a depth of knowledge and studying in this field.

‘As an able-bodied person with a driving licence and access to the tube, I wasn’t fussed on distance. But luckily the hospital was still in my local area, which was even better.’

Linda was able to make her choice during her appointment and her GP processed her referral immediately.

She says: ‘I was referred to a hospital that specialises in my condition. Being with them, I really feel that the hospital services have been developed and are delivered with the patient’s needs at the heart.
‘It’s great to feel like the medical experts you’re talking to really know what you’re going through and the ever-changing symptoms.

Linda adds: ‘I have been recommending Patient Choice to everyone, I am delighted with the whole process. This fantastic programme provides a sense of empowerment, allowing patients to feel in control — a crucial aspect for individuals navigating situations where they can’t control what’s happening internally.’

When it comes to your health, you have the right to choose where you receive the care you need

It’s natural to worry about getting health treatment. But one way to take some of the stress out of the situation is to choose where you receive your specialist NHS care.

Although Patient Choice has been around for several years, not everyone is aware that people in England have the right to choose where they are seen.

A common misconception is that you have to go to your nearest hospital.

However, Patient Choice is an NHS initiative that means if you need to see a specialist, you can choose where you would like to go for your initial outpatient appointment.

As well as NHS hospitals, the options you’re given could include independent providers that provide services to the NHS, at no extra cost to you.

This will not only help you, but it will also ease pressure on parts of the NHS, as it allows you to be seen in a hospital with shorter waiting lists.

There are many benefits of giving people more autonomy over their treatment at a time when they feel out of control of their health.

What’s best for you?

Being referred to a specialist can be daunting and deciding where to go isn’t always easy, but taking these factors into consideration will help you make your choice based on what matters most to you.

  • Do you want to be seen more quickly? If waiting times are the most important thing for you, you can choose a hospital with shorter waiting times.

  • Would you prefer to be close to friends and family who can support you during your treatment and as you recover from surgery?

  • Is location key for you? Would you prefer a hospital that’s easier to get to? For example, if you rely on public transport, you might find it easier to go to a hospital that’s not your local one.

  • You can look up waiting times and distance on the My Planned Care website (myplannedcare.nhs.uk), where you’ll be able to search by region and speciality.

How Patient Choice works

1. You make an appointment with your GP or other health professional to discuss your health concern. They suggest that you need a hospital referral to see a specialist.

2. You have the right to choose where you are seen so you ask what options are available to you. They will give you some options and you can then decide what is most convenient and suitable for you.

3. If you want to decide there and then, you can. However, if you need more time to consider your options, you can make the decision later on the NHS App, online or by calling the national referral helpline.

Remember, the next time your friends or loved ones need NHS treatment, let them know about their right to choose where they receive care, and encourage them to ask their GP about the options available to them.

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