Choose and book your appointment

Choose and Book is a service that lets you choose your hospital or clinic and book your first appointment. You are allowed to choose any NHS hospital in England or area of residence, however in some circumstances your rights may be restricted.

What is choose and book?

Choose and Book is a service that lets you choose your hospital or clinic and book your first appointment. You are allowed to choose any NHS hospital in England or area of residence, however in some circumstances your rights may be restricted. In 2015, the NHS E-referral system replaced the choose and book service.

The e-referral system “combines electronic booking with a choice of place, date and time for first hospital or clinic appointments. Patients can choose their initial hospital or clinic appointment, book it in the GP surgery at the point of referral, or later at home on the phone or online.”

“The Standard Contract for 2018/19 requires the full use of the NHS e-Referral Service (eRS) for all consultant-led first outpatient appointments. From 1 October 2018, providers will only be paid for activity resulting from referrals made through eRS. This will support local health communities to plan for the paper switch off for elective referrals.”

The Benefits of the service include:

  • cost and time savings
  • fewer missed appointments
  • fewer inappropriate referrals
  • shorter referral to treatment times
  • choice of hospital or specialist
  • choice of appointment date and time

How does Choose and Book work?

When you and the GP (or other healthcare staff) who is looking after you agree that you need a hospital or clinic appointment, Choose and Book displays on the computer which hospitals or clinics are suitable (based on your medical problem). You can then choose an appointment, from the options available, at a place, date and time that suits you best.

If you know when and where you would like to be seen, you may be able to book your appointment straight away. In this case, the GP or healthcare staff will give you information about your appointment.

If you want more time to consider your options, your GP or healthcare staff will give you an appointment request letter, which tells you how to book your appointment later. It lists your booking reference number, your NHS number and one or more hospitals or clinics. It also tells you how to book your appointment by phone using The Appointments Line (0345 60 88888), and online.

You will also be given a password with your appointment request letter. You will need this password to book your appointment or if you have to change your appointment later.

What are might rights in using this service?

  • On your first appointment you have the right to register with any GP practice you believe suits your health needs or based on their quality of services.
  • You may also choose which clinical team will be in charge of your treatment within your chosen organisation.
  • You have the right to ask to see a particular doctor or nurse at the GP practice. Your practice must make every effort to meet your preferences to see the doctor or nurse you have asked for, although there are some occasions when this might not be possible.
  • Upon referral you can request to be referred to a particular hospital or clinic and you will also be able to choose the date and time of your appointment.

When am I not able to make a choice?

A GP practice must accept you onto its patient register unless it has the following reasonable grounds for not doing so:

  • The practice might not be taking on new patients because it is at maximum capacity.
  • The practice might not be accepting patients who live outside its practice boundary.
  • Because of your particular circumstances or clinical need, it might not be appropriate to register with a GP practice outside the area where you live.

If a GP practice is not able to accept you onto its patient register it must inform you of the reasons for this.

Who doesn't have the right to choose?

You do not have legal rights to choose if you are already receiving care and treatment for the condition for which you are being referred or if you need urgent or emergency treatment.

You do not have legal rights to choose if you are:

  • A prisoner, on temporary release from prison, or detained in ‘other prescribed accommodation’ (e.g. a court, a secure children’s home, a secure training centre, an immigration removal centre, and a young offender institution).
  • Detained in a secure hospital setting.
  • A serving member of the Armed Forces (family members in England have the same rights as other England residents).
  • Detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • Using maternity services.

In addition, you do not have legal rights to choose if you are referred to:

  • Services commissioned or provided by local authorities, as your choice will depend on what has been put in place locally.
  • Services for suspected cancer.

Can I be referred to a private clinic?

  • Absolutely, you do not need a GP referral for private treatment, you can get private treatment from a consultant or specialist without being referred by your GP.
  • However, the British Medical Association (BMA) believes it’s best practice for patients to be referred for specialist treatment by their GP because they know your medical history and can advise you if a referral is necessary.
  • A referral is also needed by many private practitioners and private medical insurance policies. If you have private medical insurance, ask your insurer if they need a referral.

Do you prefer a male or female GP or health professional?

Most GP surgeries and health centres have male and female GPs. However, a small number of doctors work on their own. If your GP surgery does have both male and female GPs, they will try their best to meet your request. However, this may not always be possible, or you may have to wait longer to see a specific GP.

Need to complain?

Depending on what happened and what you want to achieve, you may have different options to make a complaint:

  • complain directly to the provider – this might be to the manager of the GP practice or the PALS team of the NHS Trust.
  • use the NHS complaints procedure. This can also be used for concerns about treatment by a private hospital if the care is paid for by the NHS.
  • report concerns to other bodies such as the Care Quality Commission, the CCG, your local Healthwatch, the press, or the NHS Choices website.
  • report concerns to the regulatory body, the General Medical Council.
  • take legal action, for example, for clinical negligence, discrimination or for breach of your human rights.

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