'Free choice' – allowing patients being referred for non-urgent treatment to choose a hospital anywhere in England – begins in the NHS in England in April 2008.
It is another milestone in a policy that aims, among other things, to use consumer pressure to improve the quality of hospital services provided by the NHS.
How significant a development is this for the NHS in England? Will patients choose and will those choices have an impact on hospital trusts?
This briefing summarises the most recent official data relating to choice of hospital at the point of GP referral.