Patient choice and planned care

Patient choice

Did you know that in many cases you have the legal right to choose where you have your NHS treatment? The NHS is offering more and more options to enable you to make choices that best suit your circumstances, giving you greater control of your care and hopefully better results.

If your GP needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition, in most cases you have the legal right to choose the hospital or service you’d like to go to. This will include many private hospitals and independent sector providers as long as they provide services to the NHS and it doesn’t cost the NHS any more than a referral to a traditional NHS hospital.

You do not have a legal right to choice if you need urgent or emergency treatment or are:

  • serving in the armed forces
  • accessing maternity services
  • detained under the Mental Health Act
  • detained in or on temporary release from prison, in court, an immigration removal centre or a secure children’s home
  • referred to high-security psychiatric services, or drug and alcohol misuse services provided by local authorities

You can also choose a clinical team led by a consultant or named healthcare professional, as long as that team provides the treatment you require.

Planned care

Also known as elective care, planned care is the provision of services with planned appointments or interventions in a place like a GP surgery or hospital.

Planned care can be an outpatient appointment or surgical procedure. It covers medical procedures such as joint replacements and cataract surgery. It also includes tests to detect diseases and medical conditions.

Some planned care procedures are done as day cases. This is when a patient leaves hospital on the day of their procedure. Some patients might have to stay in hospital overnight or for longer.

People that need planned care start with a visit to a health professional like a GP. They will discuss options and decide if a referral to another service is needed. This might include deciding if a patient needs a diagnostic test such as a scan or x-ray.

Planned care may take place on an urgent or routine basis, but not as an emergency.

Planned care covers a lot of specialities, these include:

  • audiology
  • cardiology
  • dermatology
  • ear, nose, and throat
  • gynaecology
  • ophthalmology
  • respiratory medicine
  • rheumatology
  • trauma and orthopaedics
  • therapies
  • urology

Purpose of the planned care team

The team is responsible for commissioning planned care services in your area.

The team:

  • work closely with care providers and GPs
  • speak to people that live in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

By talking to all these people, we can understand what services need to be like. We also plan how providers can deliver services in a cost-effective way.

We work with our providers to monitor and improve the Department of Health and Social Care constitutional standards.

Referral management services

It is essential that a patient’s experience of referrals is as streamlined and straightforward as possible.

The referral management service (RMS) contacts patients to discuss their choice of provider and book appointments at a time convenient to them. You have the legal right to ask for your appointment to be moved to a different provider if you are likely to wait longer than the maximum waiting time specified for your treatment. To request this you should contact your current hospital or provider. They will contact the RMS who will investigate and offer you a range of suitable alternative hospitals or clinics that would be able to see you sooner.

The RMS also provides high quality and routine data to GP practices, commissioners and providers so that effective and efficient services can be commissioned based on evidence.

Across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we have 2 referral management centres.


The Cornwall RMS manages referrals from 50 GP practices. The service is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, excluding bank holidays. Call 01872 226700 or email the RMS team.


NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly commissions Devon Referral Support Services to manage referrals for the 11 GP practices in east Cornwall. For more information, call 01752 398993.

Page last reviewed: 11 April 2023

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