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.
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?.