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Choice at the point of referral

For the past three years patients referred by their GP for a specialist outpatient consultation have had a choice over where to be treated.

As part of a larger research project, Patient choice: How patients choose and how providers respond, a survey was sent to patients in four case study areas of England to ask them about their experience of referral and choosing a hospital for treatment.

This report summarises survey findings on:

  • whether patients were offered a choice

  • patients' opinions on choice and awareness

  • which patients travel away from their local hospital for treatment

  • the information and support used by patients to help them choose

  • factors that influenced patients choices.

The results show that implementation of the policy is not yet complete, and that most patients do not experience referral as the policy envisaged. Raising awareness among patients of their right to choose and of information on comparative hospital performance would be needed to increase the number who choose a higher-quality provider.