The King's Fund

Patient choice

  • Format: Printed copy
  • Author(s): Anna Dixon, Helen Magee, John Appleby, Nancy Devlin, Peter Burge, Ruth Robertson
  • Publication date: 03-Jun-2010

The policy of offering patients a choice in where they receive hospital treatment was intended to create competition between providers, encouraging efficiency and responsiveness to patients’ preferences and ultimately to drive up the quality of care. So has the policy met those aims?

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’.

Patient choice: how patients choose and how providers respond considers how choice of provider is operating in practice and its impact on hospital providers. More specifically, the report aims to answer the following questions.

  • How do patients experience choice?
  • What factors are important to patients when choosing between providers?
  • How do GPs support choice?
  • How are providers responding to choice?