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Patient Choice

Patient choice is at the heart of the NHS. There are a range of choices that patients should expect to be offered in the NHS services they use.

What can I choose?

  • Choose which GP practice you register with.
  • Ask to see a particular doctor or nurse at the GP practice. Your practice must make every effort to meet your preferences to see the doctor or nurse you have asked for, although there are some occasions when this might not be possible.
  • Choose where to go for your first appointment as an outpatient at a hospital or clinic
  • Ask to change hospital/clinic if you have to wait longer than the maximum waiting times (18 weeks, or 2 weeks to see a specialist for cancer)
  • Choose who carries out a specialist test
  • Choose maternity services
  • Choose services provided in the community
  • Choose to take part in health research
  • Choose to have a personal health budget
  • Choose to access required treatment in another European Economic Area country

Where can I get information and support to help me choose?

You can find information on GP practices near you by visiting NHS Choices and using the ‘Find local services’ tool on the home page.

The choices are available through the NHS can be found in the NHS Choice Framework, which can be accessed here.

Further information can be found on the NHS England Patient website:


Patients using health services should be able to say:

  • I have discussed with my GP/health care professional the different options, pros and cons including, where appropriate, whether to have treatment.
  • Following agreement to progress my care, I was offered choice of where to go for my first hospital/clinic appointment or diagnostic test, as appropriate.
  • I was given a chance to choose a suitable alternative hospital/clinic when I was going to wait longer than the maximum time specified in my legal rights (18 weeks, or 2 weeks to see a specialist for cancer).
  • Information to help me make my decisions was available and I knew where to find it in a format that was accessible to me.
  • I was given sufficient time to consider what was right for me.


The NHS’s vision for patient choice by 2020 is that:

  • All patients are aware of the choices available to them, particularly where these are legal rights and have the information they need to make meaningful choices
  • All GPs/referrers discuss the different treatment options available to patients, include them in shared decision making, and offer choice to patients
  • All providers make good quality, up to date information about their services available and accept all appropriate patient referrals in line with the NHS Standard Contract,
  • All commissioners assess how well choice is working within their CCG and put improvement plans in place to address areas that need strengthening,
  • All opportunities to extend the operation of choice beyond existing standards are explored and implemented.


Are these legal rights?

Yes, but there are some circumstances in which you may not choose.

For further information visit:


NHS Choices
NHS Constitution
NHS Constitution
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