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Your choices in the NHS

Tools to help you choose

The NHS is changing to give you more choice about your healthcare. Choice allows you to make positive changes to improve your health. But choice only works when you have the information you need to make the right decision for you.

This website can help you make important health decisions, including how to choose a GP surgery or how to choose a hospital for your treatment. It can also help you make decisions about how to exercise and how you can eat healthily as a family.

All across NHS Choices there are resources to help you make choices. Take a look around and see for yourself. Here are just a few examples you may find useful.

Find and compare NHS services

Take advantage of our comprehensive directories of NHS services in England. More than 300 national directories give details of everything from hospitals, GPs and dentists to care services, gyms, addiction support and services for specific conditions.

All you have to do is select the type of service you are looking for and enter a postcode, location or organisation name. For some NHS services you can also see how well your local area is performing against national standards. You can try to compare hospital services, for example.

When you're first referred to hospital by your GP, you have the right to choose which hospital you go to. In most cases you can also choose the date and time of your appointment. On NHS Choices you can find hospitals that may be right for you and compare them.

Once you have found a hospital in the directory you'll be able to see whether the hospital provides facilities such as car parking, disabled access, shops and a visitor canteen.

You can also search hospitals via surgical procedure and compare waiting times, or search by typing in the name of a consultant. The information available includes the average waiting time for the relevant department, how many times each year the hospital performs the treatment or procedure you're searching for, and, where appropriate, the readmission and survival rate.

Patient feedback and comments

Rate and comment on NHS services, including hospitals, GPs, dentists and mental health trusts. You can also give your views about the care that you, a friend or family member received.

Patient feedback helps you make informed decisions about health services and encourages healthcare providers to assess their services and make changes where necessary. We alert service providers when a comment has been left on their profile and they are given the opportunity to reply.

Watch our series about online patient feedback, including case studies from service providers and patients. 

Online transactions

NHS Choices offers direct links to enable you to carry out a range of transactions, such as ordering a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), buying a prescription prepayment certificate, or booking hospital appointments through the NHS e-Referral Service.

Additionally, many GPs and pharmacies listed on the site subscribe to the Electronic Prescription Service, and a growing number of GPs and dentists have systems that allow you to book appointments online.

Other features include the ability to compare your local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) by their performance so you can see how the standard of services in your area measures up against those offered elsewhere.

We also publish consultant performance data for a range of treatments so you can check whether your hospital consultant is performing well.

You can also find regular updates on NHS consultations and investigations, such as the Keogh Mortality Review, which looked into higher than expected death rates at 14 hospital trusts.

Information Prescription Service (IPS)

Information prescriptions give people with long-term conditions or care needs the information they need to help them manage their health more effectively and live more independently. They contain information and links to further sources of advice and support, such as how to find local support groups.

An information prescription is a little like a medicines prescription. While a medicines prescription tells you what drugs to take for your condition, an information prescription gives you the knowledge to help you cope with your condition on a daily basis. Create an information prescription.


NHS Choices produces engaging and evidence-based videos on conditions, procedures and staying healthy. Health is not just about the physical, so many of our videos explore the relationship between physical, mental and emotional health and the environment we live in.

You can watch doctors giving advice on the key facts and questions to ask if you are diagnosed with a condition, as well as patients and carers describing their own experiences. We also have a series of cartoons offering short snippets of inspiration and information.

In 2010 we published an award-winning interactive video about sexual health and videos about pregnancy, birth and babies.

You can view our videos in our video library on NHS Choices and YouTube, and on the relevant topic pages on NHS Choices. Selected playlists are available free from the iTunes podcast store.


You can find a range of different interactive tools across the site or in our tools library, including widgets, slideshows, quizzes, symptom checkers, mobile apps and video walls.

Catering for a wide range of health needs, the tools provide quick answers and information, as well as links to more detailed areas of the website. The most popular tool on NHS Choices is our BMI calculator, which can be used to measure the body mass index of anyone over the age of two.

NHS e-Referral Service

If you've been referred to a specialist by your GP through NHS e-Referral Service and you have an appointment reference number and a password, you can book, change or cancel your appointment online or by phone. The appointment number is 0345 608 8888. The appointments line opening hours are:

  • Monday to Friday – 8am-8pm
  • Weekends and bank holidays – 8am-4pm
  • Christmas Day – closed

You can choose which hospital or clinic you attend and the date and time of your first appointment.

You can choose any hospital in England that is funded by the NHS. This includes NHS hospitals and some private hospitals.

When you and your GP agree that you need to see a hospital specialist, NHS e-Referral Service shows staff at your general practice the available hospitals and clinics. If you know where and when you'd like to be seen, you may be able to book your appointment while at your GP surgery, or you can get the practice to shortlist appropriate hospitals.

You may want more time to consider your choice. If so, you can take an appointment request letter away and use a unique booking reference number to compare your shortlisted hospitals and book your appointment online


The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

milaS said on 28 July 2015

There is such an overload of information on this website!! And I can't even find what I was referred here to do i.e book an appointment. Where to even start! I'm just going to have to phone up. Time wasted!

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debbie sloane said on 16 April 2015

I don't know how to order a prescription online

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JASB said on 10 March 2012

Little of this seems relevant to me. I have received specialist attention for a particular problem over 3 years plus and it has proved a waste of time. I have little complaint about the clinicians but am angered by unnecessarily insensitive bureaucratic procedures. How can I find out who to complain to EFFECTIVELY?

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missamputee said on 31 May 2011

I thought the idea of choose and book was to be able to have a say in where and when you go. At my GP surgery they do it for you, without asking which hospital you wish to attend or which date you prefer. I recently had an appointment made by the surgery, I turned up at the hospital only to be told that my GP,s surgery had cancelled it because I was on holiday? I have never informed my GP or their staff that was on holiday which I wasn,t.My husband had booked the day off work to take me as I am disabled so he was none too pleased. We headed straight for the GP surgery who apologised and had no answer as to why this had happened. They said their practice was to send out a letter of cancellation but they didn,t do that either. I was wondering if it normal practice not to ask your preference of when and where if there is a choose and book service?

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Page last reviewed: 01/11/2013

Next review due: 01/11/2015

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