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Your choices in the NHS

What is meant by patient choice?

It is firmly written into the NHS Constitution that "patients will be at the heart of everything the NHS does" and therefore be able to make informed choices about their healthcare.

The NHS Choice Framework summarises the choices that should be available to patients.

For some services, the NHS is required by law to offer you a choice – the so-called "legal right to choice". For others, you should be offered a choice if this is available locally. Download the NHS Choice Framework from the GOV.UK website, including easy read versions, to find out more.

Legal rights to choice

This means that, by law, you should be offered the opportunity to make choices that suit your needs. Sometimes you won't be able to choose – this could be because the right to choice may not apply, such as for emergency treatment, lack of capacity, or because of catchment area restrictions for GP services.

If you're not offered a choice, it should be explained why. Use the links below to read more detailed information about the areas you have a legal right to choice and any exceptions that may apply. 

Currently, you have a legal right to:

There is also the right to have a personal health budget, but this is not universally available and only applies to some adults and children eligible for NHS Continuing Care.

Other choices available

Where you do not have a legal right to choice, you should at least be offered some choices depending on what's available locally. Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) commission services for their local population, depending on its needs. This means not all areas in England provide exactly the same services. This may, for example, apply to community or maternity services.

Speak with your GP about the options available to you and the best choice is for your personal circumstances. Alternatively, contact your local CCG for advice. Most CCGs also publish a list of available services on their website.

Choices are also available for adult social care services, including the right to control the services you use, to choose residential care accommodation that suits you, and to access and receive information to inform your choice.

Download the Choice Framework for Adult Social Care from the GOV.UK website for more information.

Choose to live well

The choices we make about how we live can have a significant effect on our health. Eating a healthy diet, doing regular exercise, not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol can help you stay well and enjoy a long life.

You're never too young or too old to switch to a healthier lifestyle. Children who learn healthy habits at a young age will benefit from them throughout their life. And giving up bad habits can improve your health at any age. Visit Live Well for more detailed healthy living advice.

Tools to help you choose

Compare services

All across NHS Choices there are resources to help you make choices. Take advantage of our comprehensive directories of NHS services in England. More than 500 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.

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. 

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.

Page last reviewed: 11/12/2015

Next review due: 11/12/2017

The Expert Patients Programme

Find out how the Expert Patients Programme can help people with chronic conditions take control of their care

What does patient choice mean to you?

People talk about choices they have made for their health, lifestyle, NHS treatment, and NHS services.

Media last reviewed: 15/09/2014

Next review due: 15/09/2016