What are your rights as a patient of the NHS?

Published: 25th August 2016

The NHS is a huge organisation, and sometimes when seeking treatment it can feel a bit like you are being bounced around from pillar to post, with very little knowledge or say in what is going on. This can be difficult to accept at times. Ultimately it is your body, and you should be able to decide what happens to it.

Well, here Liddy’s would like to let you know some basics about your rights as a patient of the NHS, so you can then be prepared for any eventuality.

In this post we will focus on Hospitals and emergency services. Keep your eyes peeled for a follow up post about GPs.

You cannot receive hospital treatment with first being referred there by your GP unless you are attending a special clinic, such as a sexual health clinic or are in need of emergency medical attention.
Emergency treatment is available on the NHS and you will not have to pay for it. Not all hospitals provide emergency services, but you can always call 999 for an ambulance who will then take you to a place where you can receive treatment
Some treatments, such as IVF, may be subject to the priorities of your Clinical Commissioning Group. However, the NHS constitution states that local decisions about the funding of drugs and treatment must be made rationally, following proper consideration of the evidence.
Providing that the GP referring you agrees that your decision is clinically appropriate you can choose a particular team headed by a particular consultant for your first visit. However this only applies to certain services, and does not apply to accident and emergency, cancer, maternity and mental health services.
When your GP refers you to see a specialist you have the right to choose from any hospital. Your GP should discuss this with you.
Depending on your location and the treatment you need there may be a waiting time. However under the NHS constitution you have the right to treatment within maximum waiting times. If this is not possible then your local Clinical Commissioning Group must try to offer you a suitable alternative.
If your operation is cancelled then you should be offered an alternative date. If it is cancelled for non-medical reasons on or after the days you are admitted to the hospital then you should be offered another treatment within 28 days. If this is not possible then your treatment should be funded at the time and hospital of your choosing.
If something goes wrong with your treatment that ends up with you suffering from serious physiological or psychological harm or death then the NHS provider has certain obligations to fill. These are:
o Tell you are or a representative about the incident as soon as possible afterwards

o Tell you what they will do to remedy the situation

o Apologise to you

o Give you a written record of this information

o Provide you with any other support you may reasonably need

You should not be given any treatment or operation without your consent, except in a few situations. Such as:
o If you have a notifiable disease or are the carrier of a notifiable disease.

o You have been detained under the mental health act.

o Your life is in danger and you cannot communicate your wishes as you are unconscious

It can be good practice to seek written consent, but usually consent will be given orally. However, even if you give your consent in writing it may not be valid if you have not been given enough information about the treatment. Also, consent for one treatment does not signify consent for following treatments.
You have the right to refuse any treatment you wish and a doctor cannot act against any specific wishes you may have. Forcing treatment against your will is classed as assault. If there are alternative treatments available your GP should inform you of those, however you cannot insist on a treatment that your GP does not feel is appropriate.
The right to die is a slightly grey area. You have the right to refuse or stop treatment at any time, even if this will result in your death. However, it is illegal for a doctor to omit or carry out treatment that will hasten death.
You have the right to access your medical records, subject to certain safeguards.
Hopefully, knowing the above will help you feel a bit more confident next time you have to go to the hospital. It should also help you in realising when your rights are being breached. If you feel your rights have been breached, or you have a case for clinical negligence then give Liddy’s a call. We are one of the most experienced clinical negligence solicitors serving the Wakefield area. Call us on 01226 731 314.