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.  The Choice Framework, published by the Department of Health, sets out the nine main types of choices that should be available to patients in the NHS. Some of these choices are legal rights, while some are subject to specific exceptions.

Survey evidence shows that progress towards achieving meaningful choice for NHS patients has stalled over recent years. NHS England is therefore committed to a major programme of work to realise the NHS’ longstanding promise to give patients choice over where and how they receive care, as highlighted in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Patient choice programme

NHS England’s goal is to significantly improve patient choice by 2020. To achieve this, a major programme of work has been launched to achieve a radical step-up in the offer, awareness, uptake and operation of patient choice across the NHS. This work is being led by a dedicated team called the Patient Choice Unit.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have a duty to enable patients to make choices, and to promote their involvement in decisions related to their care or treatment. NHS England will work alongside CCGs to help them meet their legal responsibilities and build on their offer of choice to patients, to ensure that choices are meaningful and deliver positive improvements to patient outcomes including patient experience of the services they access and use.

The initial priorities of this programme of work are:

  • Strengthening choice in outpatient services
  • Enhancing the choices available in maternity services, including through a programme of Pioneers to develop and test ways of improving choice in maternity services for national replication
  • Improving choice in end of life care (EOLC) (including ensuring more people are able to achieve their preferred place of care and death)
  • Securing choice in the new care models that some Vanguard areas of the country are developing.

More information on these priority areas will be available via this webpage by summer 2016.

Further advice

The Choice Framework, published by the Department of Health, includes information for patients about how to complain if they are not offered choice.

As a patient, healthcare provider, commissioner, patient group, or representative body, you may contact NHS Improvement for informal advice, or to make a formal complaint. Further information is available on NHS Improvement’s website.

You can also contact the Patient Choice Unit at NHS England for guidance, advice or information, or if you have any concerns about how well choice is working for patients. You can contact us at england.choice@nhs.net.