GPs resistant to offering choice of hospital treatment are underestimating its importance to patients and undermining its ability to improve quality of care.

A King’s Fund report published today says 75 per cent of 2,000 patients surveyed said they want to choose where they are treated, yet less than half said they had been offered a choice of hospital provider by their GP.

Only 8 per cent of those who were offered a choice said they had been given the option of choosing a private provider.

The report authors said GPs “underestimated the importance of choice to patients” and there was “some resistance” among GPs to offer choice to every patient, regardless of circumstances. Very few patients are making use of performance data to inform choice, with only 4 per cent consulting NHS Choices.

King’s Fund director of policy and report lead author Anna Dixon said: “We are some way from realising the vision of choice acting as a lever to improve quality, with informed patients choosing the highest performing providers in a competitive market.”

The report suggests the main focus of competitive activity among providers is to secure GP referrals, rather than directly compete for patients.