Patient choice: how patients choose and how providers respond

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What did we do in this project?

The final report from this project Patient choice: how patients choose and how providers respond was published in June 2010.

Field work was conducted in four local health economies in England and included interviews with patients, GPs and senior staff in NHS and independent sector provider organisations, as well as a questionnaire sent to patients recently referred for treatment. Early findings from this survey were published in Choice at the point of referral: Early results of a patient survey.

Why are we interested in this piece of work?

Since January 2006, patients requiring a referral to a specialist have been entitled to a choice of four or five providers. And from April 2008 that choice has been extended to any eligible NHS or independent sector provider in England – so-called 'free choice'.

We aimed to answer the following questions for this project:

  • How do patients experience choice?
  • What factors are important to patients when choosing between health care providers in practice?
  • How do GPs support choice?
  • What is the response of providers to choice?

Project team

RAND Europe was responsible for design and analysis of a discrete choice experiment included in the patient survey.

The Picker Institute was responsible for administering the patient survey.

Nancy Devlin at the Office of Health Economics acted as an adviser to the project.