Published: 16/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5923 Page 10 11

1999 NHS plan makes the first mention of patient choice as a way of increasing patient power and cutting waiting lists.

December 2001 The Department of Health announces cardiac pilot schemes to offer choice to patients waiting more than six months for a heart operation.

Spring 2002 First patients go overseas for treatment.

Summer 2002 Cardiac choice scheme launched.

First overseas treatment teams arrive in England.

October 2002 London patient choice project launched, initially to treat cataract patients.

July-September 2003 More choice pilot schemes start, extending the specialties on offer.One of these, in Dorset and Somerset, includes choice at the point of referral.

September 2003 Major consultation on choice starts.

November 2003 Building on the Best: choice, responsiveness and equity in the NHS extends ideas of what choice might include.

June 2004 Health secretary John Reid pledges that by December 2008 every patient will be able to choose to be referred to any treatment facility that meets health service standards and that can provide care at the NHS price for the procedure they need.

August 2004 NHS on track to offer all sixmonth waiters a choice when it means they can get faster treatment.

Autumn 2004 primary care trusts, strategic health authorities and trusts prepare for choice at the point of referral by December 2005.