At a time when the future of the NHS is uncertain, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has approved a plan to allow NHS patients to choose their consultants as a drive to improve the quality of care.
From April 2012 NHS hospitals will be required to publish information about their consultants and treatment services, allowing patients to make informed decisions about where they will go and who they will see for treatment. There will be no geographical boundaries although the choice is not applicable in A&E departments, cancer services, maternity services or mental health services. It is hoped that increased transparency and competition will lead to better healthcare, indeed, in areas of greater choice death rates were lower.
The move to choose a consultant is not a new one; since December 2005 patients have been offered a choice of NHS hospital or independent provider under the “Choose and Book” scheme (which has been a legal right for over two years). Patients are able to choose a hospital which suits them although they are currently unable to specify an individual consultant. Under the new scheme it is hoped that patients will benefit from being able to choose the correct consultant for them. This has the potential to encourage patients to take a more active interest in their healthcare through being informed about the latest medical information and treatment options.