Skip to main content

NHS: Hospital Referral

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 24 March 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in circumstances where the general practitioner and the patient agree on the hospital to which the patient will be referred, primary care trusts can override their wishes and deny access to the relevant hospital. [HL2282]

From 1 April 2009 patients will have a legal right to choose the organisation that provides their treatment when they are referred to a consultant-led service for their first outpatient appointment, and to information to support that choice. The right to choice will develop as choice is extended into other areas. The right is underpinned by legally binding directions from the Secretary of State to primary care trusts (PCTs).

The standard National Health Service contract for acute services says “the provider shall accept all clinically appropriate referrals of patients”.

Under Free Choice, patients are able to choose from a national menu of services provided by National Health Service and nationally appointed independent sector providers. General practitioners (GPs) will be able to refer to any clinically appropriate provider and it will be for the referring clinician to guide the patient through the clinical aspects of their options as appropriate. GPs referral will continue to constitute authority to treat on behalf of the PCT. PCTs commissioning arrangements will not restrict where patients are offered choice.