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.
So if your GP recommends that you see a specialist, you can choose where and when to see them.
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).
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
When choice is limited
There are some exceptions that may limit your choice – for example, not all hospitals are able to treat every condition, and a hospital must meet NHS conditions on standards and costs.
You also can't choose when and what services to use in cases where speed of access to diagnosis and treatment is particularly important, such as:
- emergency services
- Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinics, where you must be seen within the 2-week maximum waiting time
- cancer services, where you must be seen within the 2-week maximum waiting time
- maternity services
- mental health services
The following people can't choose where to receive treatment:
- people held under the Mental Health Act 1983
- military personnel
- prisoners (including prisoners on temporary release)
For more on choosing treatments, see Your choices in the NHS.
Page last reviewed: 3 January 2017
Next review due: 3 January 2020