Less than 40 per cent of patients are offered a choice of provider when referred by their GP for an outpatient appointment, according to a survey report published today by NHS England and Monitor.

Just over half of patients polled were aware of their legal right to choose a hospital or clinic for an outpatient appointment.

Patients have a right to be offered a choice of provider, with help from their GP, under the terms of the NHS constitution. 

The study also found that 53 per cent of those referred for an outpatient appointment first had a discussion with their GP about where to receive treatment.

NHS England national director for commissioning strategy Ian Dodge said in a statement: “While patient choice of first outpatient appointment is a reality for some patients in England, the challenge now is to ensure that everyone enjoys their legal right, for example to choose hospitals or clinics with shorter waiting times, if that’s what they want, in both mental health and physical health services.”

Monitor co-operation and competition director Catherine Davies said: “This survey gives us some helpful insight into how patients have experienced choice in England. Some of these results are encouraging and suggest that many GPs are having helpful conversations with patients about decisions that affect their care.

“But it also suggests the NHS needs to do more to make sure patients are aware they have a choice and are offered that choice. We will continue in our efforts to make sure this happens, and to help patients feel involved and in control of their healthcare.”

The survey, carried out by Populus, interviewed 7,038 adults online. It included 2,706 interviews with respondents who had been referred for an outpatient appointment by their GP within the last 12 months.