/ Health

Do you know your options when choosing NHS care?


You need NHS treatment, but you’re not happy about where you have to go for it. You ignore the bad reviews from the neighbours because it’s your only option, right? Wrong. David Hare from NHS Partners Network explains more about your right to choose NHS care…

It’s no wonder more and more people are worried about their ability to get access to high-quality health care.

In December, statistics from the NHS showed that a record 1,750 people were having to wait over a year for routine surgery such as hip and knee replacements. While the figures may show that people are having to wait ever longer for care, there are still reasons to be optimistic.

Care options

Over the past two decades, patients have been given more power over their NHS care. NHS patients currently have the legal right to choose where they receive care if they need to see a consultant for diagnosis or treatment.

If you have to wait longer than the maximum NHS waiting times, which is 18 weeks for a non-urgent physical/mental health condition or two weeks for a cancer specialist, then you can choose to be treated by a different provider. This includes choosing independent providers, too.

An independent provider is a private sector healthcare company that is contracted by the NHS to provide healthcare. And in 2017, independent sector providers treated NHS outpatients over eight days earlier than the national NHS average. What’s more, it’s all free for patients to use, with the cost to the taxpayer the same, too.

So as an NHS patient you have the legal right to choose a health provider on the basis of what is most important to you, whether it’s the closest one to home, the one with the best Care Quality Commission rating or simply the one with the shortest waiting time.

Despite this, we know there is still very little awareness among the public of this power to choose. Indeed, the last time this was measured, only 47% were aware they had a choice about where they receive NHS care and only 40% were offered a choice by their GP.

Navigating NHS options

We want to help set out exactly what people’s rights are, to make it easier for you. We don’t want you to be worried about you or a family member getting stuck at the bottom of the waiting list of your local hospital – we want you to remember that the power to choose is in your hands.

To help us get a better idea of how people are choosing where they get NHS treatment we want to know more about your experiences, such as whether your GP has ever talked you through what your options are around choosing your care provider?

We’re also keen to know whether you’ve reviewed or used any resources, such as NHS Choices, to search for hospitals and clinics near you and compare different providers according to what matters most to you.

This is a guest contribution by David Hare, Chief Executive of the NHS Partners Network. All views expressed here are David’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.


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What, specifically, do you predict will be privatised, Duncan?

In responding to Malcolm’s question, Duncan, please bear in mind the NHS covenant that makes it clear that all treatment shall be free of charge at the point of delivery. I don’t think there is much chance of that being repealed.

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When the NHS is freed from the economic necessity to buy from EU countries unless there is no alternative, American firms will be able to compete for the medications contracts alongside other manufacturers from all round the world. I trust that commercial decisions will be made on the basis of clinical efficacy and value for money.

The High Court judgment in the case of the NHS versus Bayer and Novartis in the supply of injection drugs for the treatment of Wet AMD is a useful precedent. It is open to appeal.

Drugs already come from commercial organisations so that has nothing to do with further privatisation. I think there needs to be clarity in what is meant by “privatisation”. Essentially the NHS provides a service. I’d suggest we need to look at what services you consider will be privatised.

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Recognising it as a service is something Donald must have twigged when he Googled NHS and found it meant …..NHService. A bit like he realised a storm was…wet.
So which bit(s) of the service might he try to buy?

Sorry!It’s getting a bit late.

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We never used to refer to “Barack this” and “Barack that” under the previous US presidency, so why is it always “Donald says” nowadays? I don’t like the man but would show him the respect his office deserves. Is there a shameful allusion to aquatic fowl behind this?

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John – The term ‘Obamacare’ was widely used and is actually relevant to care of the elderly, albeit in another country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act

I always thought it disrespectful to refer to anyone just by their surname – Thatcher, Cameron, Blair, Trump….. Even Dad’s Army referred to Mr Hitler (who do you think you are kidding). If it is clear who is being referenced then I think it quite in order to use their Christian name. As we know none of them are really any different to the rest of us, in principle. Just doing a job.

D. Tusk Esq is another bugbear – and he’s a Donald. There are just too many of them about and I get confused.

I was only ever a surname until I went out to work at 18. As a junior I was astonished to be called by my first name.

malcolm r says: Today 12:43
I always thought it disrespectful to refer to anyone just by their surname

Standard technique for the army, all single sex boys’ grammar schools (at one time), the Navy, the Police – the list simply goes on. I don’t imagine respect even features in the use; it’s simply an efficient way of identifying individuals as surnames generally differ more than first names,

In the egregious Trump’s case, of course, the inferred parallel with a cartoon character and all Mickey Mouse implies in common parlance makes it an excellent fit. Use of the first name implies an affection for the individual in question one reason who its use is so misplaced in the case of Trump.

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It’s OK, Duncan. I wasn’t aiming at you – to say “Donald” has become the common usage. Formally, in America, he is Mr President but colloquially he is “The Donald” [which sounds like a house type on a new estate] or just plain “Donald”. Perhaps the word “Trump” is just too awful and therefore best avoided.

They use “Sir” and “Mam” rather a lot in America so it is fundamentally a respectful nation, hence my curiosity about the casual form. Mr Reagan was never called “The Ronald”. Staying with new house types, going back we could also have had “The Barack”, “The George” [semi’s], “The Bill”, “The Jimmy”, “The Gerry” and “The Richard” [better stop there].

Popular people usually generate a spate of christenings ( and equivalents) of babies to honour the name. The numbers could be used as a poll to gauge their popularity. So I wonder if anyone is counting the new Donalds and Donaldines?

From the West London News 9/12/16:
“Since the European Union referendum in June the number of children being named Boris have increased by a massive 55%, according to recent figures.”
That could be from a very low base. Say 20. But which Boris were they named after?

John’s house name diversion reminded me of a friend of mine who, in his earlier life, told me when he managed to buy his own house with bit of land he’d call it Ball Acre.

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Duncan, replying to your Sept. 22 posting, there are individuals who are inclined to interpret kindness as weakness.

With regard to private care, there is some truth in what you say but there are also serious failings in the social care system to monitor these private care homes, putting patients at risk, which I am currently investigating at the moment.

Your first sentence should be tattooed on the heads of all young teachers, Beryl. So true.

I agree Ian, if all kids were taught this at an early age maybe the rest of their learning would be a lot easier?

Not with some of the current parentage skills in the UK.

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Sandra says:
3 January 2019

I really appreciate all that the NHS does , without where would we be? The only thing that irritates me is that the government does not allow or recognise homeopathic medicine as a better alternative to pharmaceutical drugs that are already being offered. Most of the big drug companies, don’t let on about the side effects. I was offered a drug for a certain condition, and after researching it before agreeing to have it, I learnt that if I had said yes, my hair would have fallen out and also my oral health would have suffered as well. I decided to take a homeopathic alternative and thus have no side effects. Also my condition is now stable, which it wouldn’t have been if I had said yes to the pharmaceutical option !!

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