Radiotherapy and patient choice
In April 2009, patients were given the legal right to choose from any hospital offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs. This means that if you are diagnosed with cancer and need to go to hospital to see a specialist, you have the right to choose which hospital you're referred to by your GP.
Not everyone needs the same treatment, it depends on your diagnosis. You can choose a hospital according to what matters most to you, whether it's reputation, clinical performance and patients’ comments or location, waiting times or parking facilities.
Frequently asked questions
- Why should I choose which hospital to go to?
There are many reasons why you might prefer one hospital to another for your radiotherapy treatment. Often, in a course of treatments, location can be a key factor, as you have to make regular visits over a period of time. However, the radiotherapy treatments available vary across the UK and Ireland, not all hospitals have invested in the latest technology. For instance, there are currently just five locations in the UK that have TomoTherapy treatment machines installed.
Evidence shows that if you choose a hospital in which you feel confident and comfortable, you're likely to improve both the result of your treatment and your experience while you're in hospital.
- Are there any costs involved in choosing hospitals?
There are no costs involved if you're an NHS patient. All the hospitals that you can choose from provide treatments to NHS patients free of charge, including the independent (private) ones.
- If the hospital I choose is a long way away, can I get help with travel costs?
If your GP or the person who has referred you decides that you have a medical need for transport, patient transport services should be provided. You may be entitled to help with your travel costs through the Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme (HTCS) if you're under the care of a consultant and receive either Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or if you're named on an NHS tax exemption certificate or qualify under the NHS low-income scheme.
- Do I have to choose a hospital straight away?
If your GP wants to refer you to a specialist, you can take away information, do your own research as to where you would like to be treated and decide later. In most circumstances, this is the most sensible option.
You can choose your hospital according to what's most important to you. It will more than likely depend on the type of specialist you need to see. The choice you make may be based on a wide range of factors, such as reputation, clinical performance, waiting times, cleanliness, travel etc.
- Why is choosing the hospital in which I am first seen important?
The hospital at which you choose to see a specialist will probably also be the one where you receive treatment, should you need it. Therefore, when you choose where to see a specialist, always assume that treatment will be necessary, even if this seems unlikely or uncertain when your GP first refers you.
If you're not happy with your chosen hospital after seeing a specialist, tell your GP. They can make you an appointment at another hospital. However, this may delay any treatment you need, so think carefully before deciding to go to another hospital.
- Is hospital choice offered in every case?
A choice of hospital is available for most patients and in most circumstances. There are exceptions. For instance, if you need to be seen urgently by a specialist (for example, if you have severe chest pain), your GP will send you where you'll be seen most quickly.
- What if I don't want to choose which hospital to go to?
You don't have to make the decision yourself. If you prefer, your GP can choose for you.