Choice in elective care services

The choice in elective care programme focusses on three type of choice from the NHS Choice Framework:

  • Choice of where to go for a patient’s first outpatient appointment, for both physical and mental health,
  • The right to ask to change provider if a patient is likely to wait longer than the maximum waiting times,
  • Choice of who carries out specialist tests when referred by your GP.

The 2015 choice survey found that 47% of patients were aware of their legal right to choice, however, only 40% recalled being offered choice. This indicates that more needs to be done to embed choice in elective care services.

Choice enablers

There are a number of enablers that need to be in place for patient choice to work well, including:

  • Infrastructure – the structure that needs to be in place to facilitate the successful operation of choice such as availability and accuracy of information and utilisation of referral systems,
  • Processes and systems – systems and processes that better support patient choice e.g. electronic referral systems (e-RS),
  • Culture and behaviours – increasing public awareness and encouraging patients to seek out and take up the choices available to them as well as increasing professionals offering choice to patients.

Our work

NHS England has established five key work streams to improve the awareness, offer, uptake and operation of choice. The work streams are:

  • Professionals – working with clinical professionals to improve the offer of choice to patients,
  • Patients – improving the awareness and confidence of patients and the public in relation to choice,
  • Systems – supporting commissioners, providers and STP footprints to improve the operation of choice within their localities,
  • Information – coordination of information improvements across NHS England, NHS Choices, My NHS and NHS e-Referrals (for patients and professionals), including the development of new metrics and dashboards,
  • Core – advice and guidance, sharing of best practice and national advocacy.

As part of support being provided to the sector, in August 2016 NHS England published the Securing meaningful choice for patients: CCG planning and improvement guide.

For more information please contact the Patient Choice Unit