As a patient you have the right to choose where you receive the care you need. 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. By making an informed choice patients can:


  • select treatment and services that better meet their needs and preferences
  • have an improved experience of care
  • have a voice in service design
  • help to incentivise providers to improve quality of service and responsiveness.


The NHS Choice Framework is a guide to your choices about your NHS care and treatment. It explains:

  • when you have choices about your healthcare
  • where to get more information to help you choose
  • how to complain if you are not offered a choice.


What does this mean?

If your GP refers you as an outpatient (an outpatient appointment means you will not be admitted to a ward) to see a consultant or specialist, you have the right, in most cases, to choose the organisation that provides your NHS care and treatment. You may choose whenever you are referred for the first time for an appointment for a physical or mental health condition.

Organisations include many private and independent hospitals that are contracted to provide care on behalf of the NHS. This legal right allows patients to choose from any organisation in England offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs.

If you need any treatment or additional appointments you will usually need to return to your chosen provider for this.


NHS Choices provides an A-Z of health services near you, along with information on healthy living and social care. You can:

  • compare different organisations according to what matters most to you, such as waiting times, patient safety, complaints or quality of food
    read what other patients have said about the organisation or leave your own feedback
  • find out how a consultant performs for a particular procedure, or compare consultants from different organisations before you make your choice for your first outpatient appointment
  • 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.


Making a choice about where to be treated is about what is important to you. Considerations may include:

  • how easy is it to access the venue
  • how many weeks you have to wait for your appointment
  • the quality of the care provided (the health outcomes)
  • being closer to home and family or closer to work, or 
  • choosing to see a particular clinician.


What can I do if I am not offered choice?

You should always be offered choice at the point of referral and have the opportunity to discuss the options with the person referring you.

If you feel you haven't been offered choice, you should speak to the person who is referring you in the first instance. If you still feel that you have not been offered choice, you could raise your concerns with the CCG and we will do our best to ensure that you are offered a choice. You can do this by emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or following the advice on our Feedback page about how to get in touch.