Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has banned PCTs from enforcing minimum waiting times on referrals and implementing caps on operations.
Lansley’s move comes as a response to the Co-operation and Competition Panel‘s report on patient choice in the NHS.
By March 2012, all PCTs will be expected to have removed these “unfair restrictions”, which are said to limit patient choice and prolong “unnecessary suffering” for patients.
All decisions that could impact on patient choice must now be taken at PCT Board-level and must be made public under the new plans.
“This is just the beginning of a range of measures we hope to introduce to make the NHS truly patient focused,” said Lansley.
“I want a health service that works around patients – not the other way around.
“PCTs have to manage resources carefully but they must do so without restricting patient choice. That‘s why I am taking firm action today and banning these unfair measures imposed on patients.
“Our plans to modernise the NHS will go even further. The [Health and Social Care] Bill puts a duty on doctors and nurses responsible for designing local health services, to protect and promote patient choice as far as possible.“
Lansley asked the Co-operation and Competition Panel to investigate the implementation of patient choice in the NHS and advise on any instances “where PCTs were not acting in the best interests of patients or the taxpayer”.