NHS patients’ rights explains as patients wait weeks to see GP

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The NHS is struggling to cope with record demand and social care services are stretched to the limit. Recent headlines have highlighted how some people have been forced to wait up to twelve hours for ambulances, despite being in critical condition, as a result.

However, all patients who use the NHS and its services are entitled to certain standards when it comes to their healthcare – mental, phsyical, or emotional. They are also covered by the NHS Constitution, which sets out the rights you have as a patient of NHS services. All healthcare staff should involve you in decisions and treat you with kindness, dignity and respect. You also have the right to complain if things don’t go as you expect.

So, what does the Constitution cover? Well, your rights and responsibilities as a patient include:

  • Access to health services
  • Good quality of care 
  • Being treated by appropriately qualified and experienced staff
  • Making decisions about medications and treatments  
  • Being protected from abuse and neglect
  • Respect and confidentiality
  • Complaining if you aren’t happy or if things go wrong.

Rights to GP services:

You have the right to choose your GP practice, unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse. If you can’t find a practice to accept you, NHS England or local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) must find one for you.

You can make an appointment with a GP of your choice and the practice should try to comply with your wishes. You don’t have a right to have a second opinion, but you can ask to be referred for a second opinion from another GP or a specialist. You also have the right to receive vaccinations provided under the NHS national immunisation programme.

How long do I have to wait for treatment?

You should start your consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral for non-urgent conditions. If your GP makes an urgent referral due to suspected cancer, you should be seen by a cancer specialist within a maximum of two weeks of the referral date.

You have a right to choose which hospital you’re referred to for an outpatient appointment for a physical or mental health condition. Though the hospital you choose should provide appropriate care for your condition and be appointed by the NHS to provide that service. 

If your GP wants to make an urgent referral, for example due to suspected cancer, you cannot choose what services to use, your GP will select them for you. You don’t have the right to choose where to have treatment if you’re to be held under the Mental Health Act.

Can I complain about NHS services?

You have the right to expect good quality services from the NHS. You can make a complaint if you’re not happy with the service or care you receive, or feel you have been treated unfairly.

What can I complain about?

You can make a complaint about any aspect of NHS care, treatment or services. This includes GP, hospital, pharmacy, ambulance or community health services.

Your concerns or complaint could be about:

  • A specific consultation or treatment
  • Your general care
  • Attitude of staff
  • Difficulty making appointments or late running appointments
  • Poor or inadequate communication about your care
  • The amount of time or route taken to reach a diagnosis.

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