Hospital appointments

You can choose where to receive treatment according to what matters most to you.

If your GP needs you to see a specialist for an appointment or treatment, you can choose where to go from a range of NHS, private and independent hospitals across England.

This choice is available because Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB) buys routine inpatient, day-case and outpatient services (referred to as ‘planned or elective care’) from a number of hospitals across the country on behalf of the community.

What’s the benefit of choice?

You can choose where to receive treatment according to what matters most to you.

For instance, you may want to visit a clinic that’s convenient to get to, or one that has a good reputation for treating your condition.

Or you may wish to see a specific consultant, or go back to a hospital where the doctors or nurses treated you well.

Will I always have choice?

Choice may not be available if:

  • you have suspected stroke, heart attack or cancer and need to be seen quickly
  • your preferred hospital or clinic doesn’t treat your condition

Alternative choice

From 31 October 2023, patients over the age of 18 who have been waiting more than 40 weeks for hospital treatment, and do not have an appointment date within the next eight weeks, could be eligible to request to move to a different hospital to be treated sooner. 

If you are eligible, your hospital or independent sector provider will contact you to see if you would like to consider moving your care to an alternative hospital. Please wait to be contacted – do not contact your hospital or GP practice. Hospitals will be contacting patients that have been waiting the longest first. Patients waiting less than 40 weeks may be contacted in later phases of the project. 

Depending on the care and treatment required, it may not always be possible or appropriate to find an alternative hospital that is able to see you more quickly. 

You will need to decide if you feel comfortable and are able to travel to alternative locations for treatment. In some instances you may be able to claim a refund for reasonable travel costs under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme. Further details on eligibility are available on the NHS England Website.

Your hospital will provide further information on alternative choice and be able to discuss your options with you.  

About referrals and choosing appointments

If you need to see a specialist, your GP will make a referral.

If choice is available, you’ll be sent an appointment request letter with advice on how to choose and book your appointment via telephone, textphone or online.

This system, known as e-Referral, lets you choose a hospital, date, time and named consultant team for your first appointment.

The letter will suggest several hospitals or clinics that are either local to you or recommended by your GP practice for your condition.

If you’d like to research and choose alternatives, go online to the NHS website or contact the telephone appointments line on 0345 60 88 888.

If you don’t have access to the internet, your local library can help you research the choices available and make an appointment through the e-Referral system.

Waiting times

You have the legal right to start your NHS consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral, unless you choose to wait longer or it’s clinically appropriate that you wait longer. Patients with urgent conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, will be able to see a specialist more quickly.

Getting to and from your appointment

As a patient, you are normally expected to make your own way to hospital:

Download our patient leaflet on travelling to healthcare appointments:

Patient transport services leaflet

Patient transport services

For those with limited mobility, local councils and voluntary organisations provide community transport:

Bristol City Council community transport North Somerset Council community transport options South Gloucestershire Council community transport

Treatments we do (and don’t) fund

Because the demand for health services is always greater than the money available, we can’t fund all treatments. Treatments that are proven to meet the health needs of local people receive funding as a priority.

What we do and do not fund