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Waiting times

Will Choose and Book make getting an appointment faster?

Yes.  The old process is that your GP writes a letter and the hospital allocates a date and time for your appointment.  This could take several weeks and the date and time offered may or may not suit you.

In some cases Choose and Book will allow you to book your first hospital appointment immediately and electronically while you are still at the GP surgery, so that you can go home with a definite and convenient appointment in your hand.

If you are unable to make a decision in your GP surgery, for example, you need to check with your family, friends or work before booking your appointment, you can do it later over the phone or on the internet.

You and your GP will choose a number of clinically appropriate hospitals. He or she will then print out an Appointment Request letter for you to take away with you.  Your Appointment Request letter lists your Unique Booking Reference Number (UBRN), your NHS number, a list of hospital or clinic options for you to choose from and how to book your appointment.  Your GP practice will also give you a password with your Appointment Request letter.  You can then book your appointment later from home using The Appointments Line (0345 608 8888). the internet or, in some cases, by contacting the hospital directly.

You must have your Appointment Request letter and your password if you want to book your appointment after leaving the practice.

Will Choose and Book reduce my waiting time?

Since December 2008, the longest you should wait after being referred by your GP until you start your treatment is 18 weeks - that is, unless you choose to delay treatment or there is a clinical reason why you should wait longer.  Wherever possible, you will wait less than this, with the average wait being around eight weeks.  This means that any hospital appointments, tests, scans or other procedures that you may need before being treated will all happen within this maximum time limit.

Choose and Book will offer you a list of hospitals to choose from, together with a range of available appointment dates and times.  You can then decide to go to a particular hospital even if it means you will have to wait longer, or to have an earlier appointment at another hospital.

Information about waiting times at different hospitals is available on the NHS Choices website.  You can also call The Appointments Line on 0345 60 88888, available every day of the year except Christmas day. All calls will be charged at local rate.

How long is the average waiting time in my area before I can see a specialist?

Appointment waiting times for your area can be found the NHS Choices website, where you can search by both hospital and specialty.

Do I have to pay to go privately if I want to be seen more quickly and Choose and Book is not available in my area?

Some private hospitals provide services to the NHS and some Primary Care Trusts also have local agreements with private hospital providers.  Those services can be found via Choose and Book.  However, if you choose to be treated outside of the NHS, the arrangements for private healthcare are the same as they exist currently.

Please contact your local Primary Care Trust to discuss your options and their plans for supporting patient choice.  Contact details are listed on the NHS Choices website.

What happens if my condition worsens dramatically before I get to see a specialist?

If you feel your condition has deteriorated and are concerned, you should return to your GP.