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What The NHS Should Deliver to Patients

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 8 Aug 2011 | comments*Discuss
Consumer Rights Nhs Health Records

We all depend on the NHS. Even those with health insurance use their general practitioners. Even though it has problems, it's a wonderful service. But it's one which gives you certain rights.

Your GP

People who are ordinarily resident in the UK, including people from other EEA (European Economic Area) countries and abroad, have the right to be registered with a GP. You can choose your GP, although he/she doesn't have to accept you. A refusal, however, must be on reasonable grounds and with reasons given in writing. Some GP practices have established their own practice charters which describe the standards of services a patient can expect and the arrangements for certain services. A practice charter may be displayed in the surgery premises.

If you've been unable to find a GP yourself, you can request that your Primary Care Trust or local health board finds you a GP. You're entitled to treatment from a GP at the surgery where you are registered, but you have no automatic right to see your own GP.

A GP must provide any treatment which is immediately necessary in an emergency, even if you're not registered with them. There's no charge for basic GP treatment for NHS patients who live in the UK. There are charges for visitors from overseas, except in the case of an emergency.


If you are pregnant, you will be able to receive services from midwives, based either in a hospital or in a local health centre or clinic or an obstetrician based in a hospital. You may also have a range of options to choose from on the type of antenatal care you want and where you give birth. How much choice you have depends on the area in which you live, but could include full hospital care, shared care between a GP and hospital staff, or a home birth.

Hospital Treatment

You can't receive NHS hospital treatment without being referred by your GP, unless you're attending a special clinic, for example, for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, or you need urgent medical attention in an emergency. Access to some forms of treatment may be subject to the Primary Care Trust's (PCT) priorities, and some treatment may not be provided in your area. It may also depend on your need. You can obtain details of those services not provided, and any prioritising criteria, from the PCT.

You have no right to see a consultant or a particular doctor, although this can be requested, nor can your GP insist that you see a particular consultant or doctor. You have the right to see a doctor competent to deal with your case. If you have special reasons for seeing a particular consultant, you could ask for an appointment, explaining your reasons for wanting to see them. If you still have difficulty in seeing the consultant, you could write to the hospital administrator asking for their help.

You may wish to get a second opinion after seeing a consultant, either as an out-patient or an in-patient. You'll need to request this from the consultant, who may arrange for you to see someone else. If the consultant doesn't agree, ask your GP to help.

In England, you have the right to be offered the choice of at least four hospitals when you need to see a specialist for further treatment. You can book the appointment yourself. Your GP must give you an appointment request slip first. This must have a reference number and password which you use when you make your booking.

You may be unable to receive the hospital treatment you need immediately, and may have to go on a waiting list. There are maximum waiting times for in-patient treatment under the NHS. If necessary, treatment may be arranged in an alternative hospital to meet this guarantee. There are also waiting time standards for a first appointment as an out-patient.

Care In Hospital

The national maximum waiting time for A&E is 4 hours and patients will only be admitted if this is necessary. Most patients are able to be treated and return home. If you're using an out-patients' department, you should be given a specific appointment time and should usually be seen within 30 minutes of that time.

You should not be examined or given any treatment or operation without your consent, unless you have a notifiable disease or are a carrier of one, you've been detained under the Mental Health Act, your life is in danger, you're unconscious and you cannot indicate your wishes, the patient is a child who is a ward of court and the court decides that a specific treatment is in the child's interests, or a court or someone who has parental responsibility authorises treatment.

You don't have the right to be cared for in a single sex ward. However, you do have the right to be informed before you go into hospital (unless it is an emergency or you are admitted to an intensive care unit) whether you will be in a mixed ward.

If your operation is cancelled, you should be offered an alternative date. In most cases, this should be within 28 days of the original date and sooner for life threatening conditions. If this does not happen, you may want to complain.

You shouldn't be discharged until your care needs are assessed and arrangements made to ensure that you will receive any necessary services when you are discharged. You have the right to see most health records held about you, subject to certain safeguards. You're entitled to be informed of the uses of the information, who has access to them and how you can arrange to see your records.

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