Can I choose where to receive treatment?

The NHS Constitution gives people living in England the right to choose where to receive treatment. You have the right to:

  • choose your GP surgery, unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse, for example you live outside the area that the surgery covers
  • make choices about your NHS care, and to receive information to support these choices

This also means you can choose the organisation that provides your NHS care when you’re referred for your first appointment with a consultant (a specialist in that area of medicine). So if your GP recommends that you see a specialist, you can choose where and when to see them.

For more information on how to access NHS services, see NHS services explained.

NHS e-Referral Service

The NHS e-Referral Service is an electronic booking service for people living in England. It allows you to choose from different hospitals and clinics across England (including some private hospitals). You can also choose the time and date of your first outpatient appointment.

You can book your appointment in three ways:

  • your GP or other referrer can book it while you’re at the surgery
  • you can book it online
  • you can phone the NHS e-Referral Service appointments line on 0345 608 8888 (open 8am to 8pm daily and 8am to 4pm on weekends and bank holidays, closed Christmas Day)

Finding a hospital

If you’re unsure about which hospital or clinic to choose, your GP can advise you on what might be the best choice for you.

Find and choose hospitals is the most sophisticated hospital comparison system in the UK. It allows you to compare hospitals using a wide range of factors, including:

  • overall quality of service (judged by the regulator)
  • other patients’ views
  • waiting times
  • infection rates
  • mortality rates
  • food quality
  • parking facilities
  • disabled access

When choice is limited

There are some exceptions that may limit your choice, for example, not all hospitals are able to treat every condition.

The hospital must also meet NHS conditions on standards and costs.

You cannot choose where to receive the following services:

  • emergency services, where speed of access to diagnosis and treatment is particularly important
  • Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinics, where you must be seen within the two-week maximum waiting time
  • cancer services, where you must be seen within the two-week maximum waiting time
  • maternity services
  • mental health services

The following people cannot choose where to receive treatment:

  • people held under the Mental Health Act 1983
  • military personnel
  • prisoners

For more on choosing treatments, see Your choices in the NHS.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 11/12/2014

Next review due: 10/12/2016