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More GPs must offer outpatient choice, NHS England says

17 September 2015

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Too few NHS patients are being offered a choice by GPs about where they receive outpatient care, a joint survey by NHS England and Monitor revealed.

Only 40% of the 2,700 respondents said they were offered a choice of hospital or clinic for their first outpatient appointment by their GPs.

The 2014 Choice Framework means that patients have a legal right to choice about treatment and care in the NHS. When patients don’t have a legal right to choice, (e.g. for maternity services or drug and alcohol misuse services provided by local authorities), they should be offered some choices, depending on what’s available locally.

Catherine Davies, executive director of co-operation and competition at Monitor, said: “We think it’s only right that patients are in the driving seat when it comes to making decisions that affect their health, and this shows us that GPs are continuing to have helpful conversations with patients and offering more choice.

“But there is still more the NHS can do to make sure patients are aware of their legal right to choose and are able to make a choice,” she added.

Specifically, people in rural areas were more likely to be aware of their right to choose, compared to those living in urban areas (52% vs 46%) and to be offered a choice (42% vs 39%). Moreover, two thirds of young people (18 – 25 year olds) weren’t offered a choice (64%).

The survey also signaled a lack of patient awareness, as 47% of patients were aware of their right to choose a hospital or clinic for their outpatient appointment, a decrease from 51% last year.

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