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NHS hospital services

About NHS hospital services

NHS hospital services are run and managed by NHS trusts, which make sure that hospitals provide high-quality healthcare, and that money is spent efficiently. They also decide on strategies for hospital developments.

Apart from emergency care, hospital treatment is arranged through your GP, dentist and optician. Treatment at NHS hospitals is free. However, if you are not a resident in England, please vist the section Information for visitors to England.

Choosing a hospital

If you need to go to hospital to see a specialist, in most cases you have the right to choose which hospital your GP refers you to. This right lets you choose from any hospital in England (including some independent hospitals) that offers suitable treatment at NHS standards and costs. You also have the right to information to support your choice. 

For information about choice, visit the sections about:

Finding a hospital

NHS Choices will help you to make your choice. You can select from a wide range of different hospitals and compare them according to the criteria that matter most to you. Use the Searvices near you search facility to find your nearest hospital.

When you find the details of hospitals in your area, you can read what other hospital users have said about them. You can use the 'Leave review' option provided on each hospital profile to record your experiences about the treatment you received.  

Waiting times

As set out in the NHS Constitution nobody should wait more than 18 weeks from the time they are referred by their GP to the start of their treatment unless it is clinically appropriate to do so or they choose to wait longer.

To learn more about waiting times in the NHS, read the guide to waiting times

Complaining about hospital services

If you’re not happy with the care you receive in hospital, you can make a complaint.

Speak to a member of staff in the hospital ward or department. The best people to speak to about your concerns are the ward manager, senior nurse on duty or the hospital receptionist. They may be able to resolve your problem or put you in touch with someone who can. Raising the issue early with someone in the department is usually the easiest and quickest way to resolve a problem.

You can also talk to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Most hospitals have a PALS office. They can give you advice on how to get your complaint resolved. This may include making a complaint to the hospital management through the NHS complaints procedure.  

If you’re not offered a choice of hospital

If you’re not offered a choice of hospital, first explain the problem to your GP. If you’re still not offered a choice, contact your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). CCG’s commission secondary care, including hospital services, emergency care and some community services such as district nursing.

Page last reviewed: 24/09/2014

Next review due: 24/09/2016

Booking appointments

Book through your GP practice
Book through NHS e-Referral Service
Use the hospital's own booking service
Book by telephone on 0345 608 8888

GP referrals

Find out how to get a GP referral, including tips on other services you may access through your GP

Having an operation

If your GP has suggested you may need surgery, this guide is for you

Major trauma services

Patients with multiple serious injuries may need to be transferred to a major trauma centre. Find out what good trauma care should look like