Patients will be given greater control over when and where they can get their treatment from April 2008. Any patient receiving routine elective treatment will now be able to choose from any NHS approved hospital provider in England.Currently choice is limited to a list of hospitals.
The Department of Health believes that empowered patients are more likely to take greater responsibility for their care and treatment and have a better experience of it. The Department also argues that free choice makes it increasingly important for providers to have a good understanding of the needs and wants of patients and GPs. More choice will also help drive up quality and standards across the NHS. With more hospitals and clinics to choose from, providers may also wish to make more information about their services available to patients in order to help them make these choices.
As part of a broader initiative to raise awareness of choice, and to empower patients to have a real say in their treatment, NHS Trusts and organisations providing health care funded by the NHS, will be able to promote their services to patients for the first time.
As well as health care providers being able to advertise their services, a series of NHS branded advertisements will run in regional newspapers and on regional radio, designed to raise awareness of choice and to help patients make informed decisions about their choice of provider. Advertising and promotional activity will be regulated by a new code of practice, which seeks to achieve a balance between the needs of patients, health professionals and the public.