In the UK, patients’ rights are protected by care and health law. Most people in the UK receive care from the NHS and the NHS has a constitution to outline patients’ rights.
Seeing a GP
All patients in the UK are entitled to register with a GP but patients must check that the GP they choose covers their geographical area. It is very rare for GPs to refuse patients, but if they do refuse they must give reasonable grounds to do this. A patient does not have the right to demand to see their own GP, but they may see any GPs working at the surgery they are registered with. Patients do not have the right to demand home visits, as the decision to carry out a home visit must be taken by the doctor. GPs must ensure that there is an out of hours service, which will provide care for patients registered with the surgery when it is closed.
GPs are required to provide treatment in emergency situations, even if the patient is not registered with them.
Patients have the right to change GP at any time and they do not have to give a reason. Patients are also allowed to ask for a second opinion.
GPs have the right to remove patients from the list if the patient has been physically or verbally abusive or if they have moved out of the geographical area.
All patients in the UK have the right to hospital treatment but they must have been referred by their GP. This rule applies to all cases except emergency treatment and some special clinics, such as sexual health clinics.
Patients are entitled to a range of treatments on the NHS, but not all treatments are covered. Treatments such as IVF, for example, may have restrictions that may depend on the area you live in.
Members of staff have the right to refuse treatment if patients are physically or verbally abusive or violent.
Patients do not have the right to demand particular consultants or specialists, although they are allowed to make a request which may or may not be fulfilled. Patients have the right to choose from any hospital which provides the relevant treatment.
Patients do not have the right to be cared for on a single sex ward, but they should be informed in advance if they are going to be placed on a mixed sex ward.
Patients should not be treated or examined without their consent as it would be in conflict with care and health law, unless they fit the following criteria:
- The patient has been held under the Mental Health Act
- The patient’s life is in danger, they are unconscious and they cannot give consent
- The patient has a notifiable illness or is a carrier of a notifiable illness
- The patient is a child who is a ‘ward of court’; this means the court may act on their behalf