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Fewer patients being offered choice of hospital, says DH

22 October 2007

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The Department of Health’s (DH) latest National Patient Choice Survey has found a reduction in the number of patients who said they were offered a a choice of hospital for their first outpatient appointment.

This is the first time in the survey series, which began in May 2006, that a reduction in patient choice has been recorded. In May this year, just 44% of patients recalled being offered a choice of hospital. This was even less in July – 43% – and compared badly with 48% in March (although this was up from 30% in the first survey).

The survey also found that:

  • 38% of patients were aware before they visited their GP that they had a choice of hospitals for their first appointment, up from 37% in March and 29% in the May/June 2006 survey.
  • 79% of patients who were offered choice were satisfied with the process and 5% were dissatisfied, similar to the March survey.
  • Location or transport considerations were given most often, by 71% of patients, as an important factor when choosing a hospital.

The DH’s report gives the final results of around 75,000 responses to the seventh National Patient Choice survey commissioned to assess the implementation of choice at PCT level.

The series of surveys, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the DH, monitors patient awareness of choice and recall of having been offered a choice of hospital for their first outpatient appointment.

Commenting on the report, Graham Kendall, Acting General Manager of the NHS Partners Network, said:
“The figures in this survey make for disappointing reading. NHS Partners Network members have been working hard to give NHS patients a genuine choice in their provider of care so it is dispiriting to see the number of patients offered choice going down.
“Giving patients the right to choose where they are treated is a very powerful method of driving improvement across the system on the issues that matter to patients – from cleanliness and customer care to car parking. It is therefore worrying that this message is not getting through.
“In order to deliver the benefits of choice throughout the system, clear direction from the top is needed. We need to see a commitment from ministers to ensure the patients’ right to choose their provider is honoured.

“This is fundamental to personalised care and a reinvigorated choice agenda will drive wider improvement for all NHS patients.”

Department of Health

NHS Confederation

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“We strive to use Choose and Book – when it works, it’s excellent, but far too often it crashes and is a major source of stress for GPs and staff – also, there are too many continual changes, and it is now being manipulated by hospitals to achieve targets (no slots if more than 18 weeks). Most importantly, most patients still want to go to the same local hospital as before (they could always go elsewhere if they
requested)” – B Wiles, Clifton Medical Centre

“We offer choice, but the vast majority of patients want the local hospital only” – Name and address supplied