By December 2005 all patients who need a referral to hospital (or a suitable alternative provider) for elective care (from initial outpatient appointment to subsequent treatment) can expect:
to be offered a choice of 4-5 hospitals or suitable alternative providers from a directory of providers;
to be able to book their appointment with their preferred hospital/suitable alternative provider;
information to be available locally to inform their choice;
to be supported in making their choice by their GP or primary care professional and, where necessary, by a range of practice, PCT and community and voluntary sector based services;
aftercare and rehabilitation normally to be provided locally following any hospital treatment.
Choice of hospital may not be appropriate for all services. The services that will not be required to offer a choice of 4-5 hospitals (or suitable alternative providers) by December 2005 will include services where speed of access to diagnosis and treatment are particularly important, maternity and mental health services, and secondary and tertiary referrals.
Information should be developed in four key areas to support and inform patients' choice of hospital:
location and convenience of the hospital
Local implementation plans should be developed and further guidance on implementation will be issued in the form of a Delivery Framework, which will explain the process for SHA state of readiness in October 2004.
The national IT programme has already issued a range of documents covering the new electronic services to support Choose and Book.
The policy framework, IT documents and other information are available on the Choose and Book website at:
New equal access laws which came into force on 1 October will have as dramatic an effect on opening up business and services to disabled people in the UK as similar laws have had in the United States, according to the Disability Rights Commission (DRC).
Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requires every business, large or small - from the local shop to restaurants, health clubs, dentists and supermarkets - to become more user-friendly to Britain's 10 million disabled people. The law means that businesses will need to make reasonable changes - such as adapting premises, removing physical barriers or providing the service another way - so that disabled people can use the service. The change will affect over 2 million British businesses. Failure to act could result in legal action.
The DRC is investing heavily in projects aimed at making sure that disabled people know about and assert their new rights post October. Increasing the capacity of disabled people and organisations to monitor progress and complain is also a key aim.
For further information see the DRC website