What are my rights as an NHS patient?

It is important to know your rights as a patient, as they will help you make a decision about your care that’s right for you and your family.

You have more control than you might think, so here we’ll highlight your key rights as an NHS patient.

What choices can I make?

There are many choices you can make throughout your NHS treatment, including:

  • Where your tests and treatment take place
  • Who your doctor is
  • Which maternity services to use
  • Whether you want to use community services (e.g. physiotherapy, counselling)
  • Whether you want to take part in health research

You can see more choices you can make in the NHS Choices Framework, though there are some limitations if you need emergency care or are in the armed forces.

By offering more and more options that enable you to make choices that suit your circumstances, the NHS is giving you greater control of your care that should hopefully mean better results.

What are my legal rights?

If you GP needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition, you usually have the right to choose the hospital or service you’d like to go to.

This sometimes includes private hospitals that provide services to the NHS, and can be chosen if they do not cost any more than a referral to a traditional NHS Hospital.

You can also choose a clinical team led by a consultant or named healthcare professional, as long as that team provides the treatment you require.

You can book your appointment via the NHS e-Referral service. It can be done while you’re at the GP surgery, or online, using the shortlist of hospitals or services provided in your appointment requested.

The shortlist is selected by your GP, so make sure you tell them about your preferences during the appointment.

To agree the shortlist, you and your GP can compare information about hospitals or consultants on the website, including quality outcomes, waiting times and travel. 

How can I make an informed decision?

To ensure you’re making the right care decision for you and your family, make sure you have all the information you need and fully understand the next steps (whichever pathway of care you choose). 

Research the procedure and provider on Google or contact the Patient Advice Liaison Service for more information. You can also use our video library to find out more about certain conditions, medications and procedures.

If you are likely to wait for longer than the maximum waiting time specified for your treatment, you have the right to ask for your appointment to be moved to another provider. The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or hospital will find you an alternative hospital with better availability.

What can I do if I’m not offered a choice?

As a patient, you should always be offered the chance to discuss your options and make a choice at the point of referral. If they do not give you this opportunity, ask them for it.

If you still don’t feel like you’ve been given a choice, you can make a complaint to your CCG. If they are unable to resolve this complaint you can take it to the Independent parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. 

What should I do next?

Before you make a care decision, look into it a little more and ask advice where you can. These resources should be able to help you: