Extending patient choice of provider

Since 2010, the Government has been committed to increased choice and personalisation in NHS funded services. Choice for patients can be about the way care is provided, or the ability to control budgets and self-manage conditions. Additionally, the NHS Constitution states that “You have the right to make choices about your NHS care and to information to support these choices”.

By choice of provider, and specifically Any Qualified Provider, we mean that when patients are referred (usually by their GP) for a particular service, they should be able to choose from a list of qualified providers who meet NHS service quality requirements, prices and normal contractual obligations.

In South East London, residents are already able to choose which GP they register with and which hospital they go to for tests or treatments. Giving people choice can affect how they experience their treatment and choice can also drive improvements in services.

Choice of provider is expected to drive up quality, empower patients and enable innovation. Importantly, extending patient choice of provider offers a vehicle to improve access, address gaps and inequalities and improve quality of services where patients have identified variable quality in the past.

Over the past few months, the Department of Health has engaged with clinicians, providers, commissioners, patient groups and voluntary organisations on how best to extend patient choice of provider. They have discussed with them what services should be subject to choice, what qualification criteria for providers should be employed, and how the mechanism for patient choice of Any Qualified Provider should operate.

Between them, they have identified eight services to test a phased implementation of extending patient choice of provider, treating 2012/13 as a transitional year, starting with a limited set of community and mental health services.

The eight services identified are:

  • Musculo-skeletal services for back and neck pain
  • Adult hearing services in the community
  • Continence services (adults and children)
  • Diagnostic tests closer to home such as some types of imaging, cardiac and respiratory investigations to support primary assessment of presenting symptoms
  • Wheelchair services (children)
  • Podiatry services
  • Venous leg ulcer and wound healing
  • Primary Care Psychological Therapies (adults).

Over the next few weeks, we would like you to consider these eight services and identify which three you believe should extend patient choice of provider in South East London.

You may like to consider the following:

  • Which of the eight services do you think would most benefit from extending choice of provider?
  • Do you think you or your organisation will benefit from having extended choice of provider in any of these areas?
  • Which are the types of community and mental health services where choice of provider is most likely to improve quality?
  • What is the best way to ensure a level playing field between the different kinds of provider who could be involved?

To help provide you with further details to aid your thinking and discussions, I attach a short briefing document and I look forward to receiving any thoughts you may have on the services you believe should be selected. The briefing can also be downloaded at:

The simplest way to share your views is by visiting our online survey at:

You can also send your response by post or email to Keri Lewis by 27 September 2011 at or by post to Communications Team, Southwark BSU, 1st Floor, PO Box 64529, London SE1P 2TZ.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Victoria Medhurst, Assistant Director of Strategy & QIPP, who is leading on this work locally. She can be contacted on 020 3049 4188 or

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