Since April 2009 you have had the right to chose which hospital you will be treated in - as long as it meets NHS standards and costs.
The advantage of this is that it allows you to chose a hospital based on your priorities. You may be more concerned about being operated on my a well known surgeon or, perhaps, you'd prefer to be admitted as close to your family and friends as possible. On the other hand you might be concerned about MRSA rates and general hospital cleanliness.
Which of these is most important to you?
The process begins when your GP refers you to a specialist.
The next step for the GP is to write the referral letter and that letter must be addressed to the hospital where you want to be treated. If you aren't sure which hospital you want then ask your GP to hold back writing the letter until you've had time to chose.
The next step for you is to start gathering information. Your GP is an excellent starting point. They should have a real understanding of what is available locally and be able to talk your options through with you. But also talk with your family and friends and ask on discussion groups such as Face Book and Twitter.
If you want more objective information or want to find out about hospitals outside your local area then try NHS Choices.
If you do get referred to a hospital and are unhappy then ask your GP to re-refer you - the down side to this is that you will have to wait again to be seen.
(I've provided screen shots of the NHS Choices site; you'll need to visit the actual site for it to work)
NHS Choices provides a great tool for helping you chose which hospital you want to be treated in.
On the Find and Choose Services page enter your postcode and the type of treatment you want.
When I entered my postcode and hip replacement I was told that there were no hospitals! Strange as I live in central London and had recently had surgery there. If this happens to you just enter your postcode. When I did that I got notified of 361 hospitals within 50 miles! I narrowed this down on the next page to a 5 mile radius. This gave 41 hospitals.
If you have the same problem as I did you will need to check that the hospital you're interested in does hip surgery. I'll explain how later. Independent hospitals will only be listed if they take NHS patients - but there is far less information available on the NHS Choices website about them.
Here is a screen shot of the next page.
You can order the list alphabetically, by CQC rating or by distance from your chosen postcode. I looked for UCH - where I had my operation.
And here it is
The first thing to note is that the hospital is given an overall score by the Care Quality Commission - these can be excellent, good, fair or weak. This rating only applies to NHS hospitals - more about it later.
The next column is about how patients rated the hospital.
The third column shows the mortality rating and how this compares with the national average.
The next step is to click on the hospital's name (printed in red) which will take you to a page with lots more information.
On the right hand side you will see the CQC score again and important information about waiting times, cleanliness and MRSA rates. If you're in a lot of pain and want to be admitted quickly or are worried about MRSA then this information will be crucial in choosing which hospital to attend.
The tabs on the top give you information about treatment, facilities, maps and patient feedback. The Treatment tab is where you'll learn if the hospital provides hip replacements - at UCH they list them as "Adult Hip and Knee Reconstruction - Trauma and Orthopaedics" so you may have to hunt around a bit.
If you want to look more deeply into the CQC scores then go back to ...
and click on More Details in the first column. This will take you to the CQC's own website and you will see that the score is made of two components
You will then see other links to More on Quality of Services and More on Quality of Financial Management
Following the More on Quality of Services link will take you to the scores on
Each of which has yet another More on link.
Click the More on Meeting core standards and you will finally arrive at the information showing how many of the individual core standards the Trust met. Check these out. You may also want to see how they do against National priorities and Existing commitments.
By now you will probably have realised that the CQC may be interested in different aspects of hospital management to you but, nevertheless, there will be some good bits of information buried in there that will help you chose which hospital is best for you.
I've spoken with a few people about the hospital they chose. Many of them decided to go to the nearest one because it would involve less travelling time for outpatient appointments both pre- and post-op and would be easier for their family and friends to visit them.
A couple opted to travel a substantial distance to be cared for by a particular consultant. In both cases they had an unusual hip problem which very few surgeons were familiar with.
Which hospital you chose is up to you but do, please consider your options and make the choice that's best for you.
What did I do? I went for one slightly further away from home because it has a brilliant reputation and a fantastic surgeon but I'm lucky living in London I've a lot of choice.
I'm sorry the screen shots aren't very clear but I'm trying to find a way to make them better. I'm also working on a video - I just need to learn how to do the screen captures.
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