Press release

More work needed to make the NHS’ commitment to choice a reality for all patients, survey suggests

A survey published today indicates that more needs to be done to promote patient choice across the NHS.

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A survey published today shows that too few NHS patients say that they are being offered a choice about where they receive care, indicating that more work needs to be done to promote patient choice across the NHS.

40% of respondents to NHS England and Monitor’s annual survey into patient choice said they were offered a choice of hospital or clinic for their first outpatient appointment by their GPs. This is a small improvement from last year’s 38%.

The survey indicated that, where patients are offered a choice, they are much more likely to be able to go to the hospital or clinic they want (91% compared to only 41% amongst those who weren’t offered a choice).

The survey asked more than 2,700 patients questions about the options they were offered by their GP when being referred for an outpatient appointment. Some of key findings were:

  • people living in rural areas were more likely than those living in urban areas to be aware of their right to choose (52% vs 46%) and to be offered a choice (42% vs 39%)
  • 47% of patients were aware of their right to choose a hospital or clinic for their outpatient appointment, which has decreased from 51% last year
  • two thirds of young people (18 - 25 year olds) weren’t offered a choice (64%), but those that were offered a choice were the most likely to engage with their GP and discuss where to go (79%)
  • among those who were offered a choice of where to go for their first outpatient appointment, almost 9 in 10 (88%) said that they had enough information to help them make their decision

Catherine Davies, Executive Director, Co-operation and Competition at Monitor said:

We think it’s only right that patients are in the driving seat when it comes to making decisions that affect their health, and this shows us that GPs are continuing to have helpful conversations with patients and offering more choice. But there is still more the NHS can do to make sure patients are aware of their legal right to choose and are able to make a choice.

For example we have been working closely with local commissioners in Huddersfield who introduced choice in adult hearing services. We are helping them improve the information available to patients about their choices, so that local people with hearing loss understand the benefits different providers can offer them.

Monitor and NHS England will continue to support the sector to use these findings and increase the number of patients exercising their right to choose providers of healthcare.

Read the full survey results.

Published 16 September 2015