Patients will from April be able to choose freely who provides their care, not just the hospital to which they want to be referred, the Government has announced. Health secretary Andrew Lansley said that a survey for the Department of Health had shown that most patients wanted more choice over not only how and where they receive NHS treatment, but from whom.
The Department has published new guidance making it clear that from April “all NHS providers of care will have to accept all clinically appropriate referrals to named hospital consultant-led teams” – without any geographical boundaries. The exceptions to this are maternity, mental health, cancer, A&E or urgent care services.
The guidance also says that providers of NHS care will have to be more transparent about their consultants and the services that they provide, so that patients can make more informed decisions about which consultant team is most likely to deliver the care they need. Andrew Lansley said: “We know that transparency can drive up standards of care and improve services for patients.”
The DoH survey showed that more than half (53%) of people still don’t know that they can choose which hospital to be referred to. But more than four-fifths said they wanted more choice in where they are treated in the NHS (85%) and how they are treated in the NHS (82%). And more than three-quarters of those asked said that they wanted a choice in which hospital consultant is in charge of their care (77%) or their children’s care (78%).
The health secretary said: “To date, patient choice in the NHS has been very limited, but that’s all about to change. From April next year, patients will be able to choose not only where, but who provides their care.