JUST half of patients in Worcestershire and throughout the country are aware of the right to choose where they receive healthcare, an NHS survey has found.
The study by NHS England and health regulator Monitor found only 51 per cent knew of their legal right to pick a hospital or clinic of their choosing for an outpatient appointment.
The survey also found fewer than 40 per cent of patients were offered a choice of hospital to be treated at when referred for an outpatient appointment by their GP.
Chairman of Worcestershire Healthwatch - which represents the interests of patients in the county - Peter Pinfield described patient choice as a "cornerstone" of the NHS.
"But it has to be a real choice for patients from Worcestershire," he said.
"Healthwatch is very supportive of choice of treatment, where that takes place, who carries out that operation but all these things must come with good data information and quality outcomes.
"Healthwatch would advise you have a good honest and realistic conversation with your GP, have a look at the national data, think about the logistics of where your treatment is to be given, discuss with loved ones and trusted friends and seek advice if you are not sure.
"But I do think the whole NHS system needs to improve on how information and communication is given to the general public".
NHS England’s national director for commissioning strategy Ian Dodge said: “The challenge now is to ensure that everyone enjoys their legal right, for example to choose hospitals or clinics with shorter waiting times – if that's what they want – in both mental health and physical health services”.
Co-operation and competition director at Monitor Catherine Davies said the NHS needs to do more to ensure patients are aware of their rights and are offered a choice.
“We will continue in our efforts to make sure this happens, and to help patients feel involved and in control of their healthcare," she said.