Your rights to choice of treatments

  1. The doctor or other health professional you see will recommend a course of treatment. Feel free to ask if there are other ways to treat your condition – such as PDT - and what they would advise you to do.

  2. Doctors recommend treatments based on evidence from research and their own experience with other patients. The evidence includes information on how well treatments work, what side effects or complications they have and how they interact with other treatments.

  3. Some of the evidence that they rely on comes from treatment guidelines produced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) - an independent organisation responsible for judging whether particular treatments are effective enough for the NHS to use, bearing in mind the research results and the cost to the NHS.

  4. You have the right to drugs and treatments that have been recommended by NICE for use in the NHS, if your doctor says they are clinically appropriate for you. Also, the relevant health body is obliged to fund specified NICE recommendations usually no longer than three months from the publication of the recommendation.

  5. Have a look at the NICE summaries of guidance  This guidance is updated regularly as a result of the latest research – our charity is in the process of identifying research that needs to be carried out on the uses of PDT in fighting cancer and other illnesses, and this we hope lead to further NICE recommendations about PDT.

  6. Health care providers must not discriminate against you because of race, sex, disability, pregnancy or maternity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age when they decide what treatment to give you as a patient. It is not against the law for them to discriminate against you because of your age.

Your rights to choice of hospital

  1. If you need to go to hospital to see a specialist, you have the right to choose which hospital you're referred to by your GP. This legal right - called Choose and Book - lets you choose from any hospital offering a suitable treatment that meets NHS standards and costs. You can choose a hospital according to what matters most to you, whether it's location, treatments offered, waiting times, reputation, clinical performance, visiting policies, parking facilities or patients’ comments.  For more help contact the Choose and Book Appointments' Line on 0845 608 8888, or see:

     NB - This right doesn’t apply to medical emergencies or other urgent admissions, for example some cases of cancer.

  2. For more information and help in finding the right hospital for you, go to NHS Choice - Picking the Right Hospital  The Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) are expected to promote this choice to patients  click here for List of Norfolk CCGs
  3. Within the hospital of your choice, you don't have the right to choose a particular consultant-led team for certain services, including cancer services.

  4. You may wish to get a second opinion after seeing a consultant, either as an out-patient or an in-patient. You will need to request this from the consultant, who may arrange for you to see someone else. If the consultant does not agree, you could ask your GP to help.

  5. If you're not happy with your chosen hospital after seeing a specialist, you can ask your GP to make you an appointment at another hospital. (Of course, this may delay any treatment)

Patient Trials

  1. You may want to look for treatment that is not yet generally available but is being trialled. The main reason for carrying out trials is to determine whether one treatment is better than another. An advantage of being involved in a trial is that you may be given a new treatment that is better for your condition. There is of course no guarantee of this - it may turn out to be no better, or to be worse, than the standard treatment. Even so, during the trial, your treatment and progress may be monitored more closely than if you were receiving the usual treatment.

  2. There is also a wider benefit in that trials help increase understanding about a particular disease or condition. This may benefit you or others like you in the future. The number of cancer patients entering clinical trials has doubled in the last three years. This is one of the highest rates of cancer trial participation in the world.

  3. You cannot be entered into a trial if you don't want to be. If you're asked to take part, you're free to say yes or no at any time.For information on how to find out about and take part in a clinical trial, including one relating to PDT, go to taking part in Clinical Trials  Also see cancer Research UK’s site Cancer Research UK Trials We are in the process of compiling separate information about PDT trials – these will appear on this website.

  4. Before you agree to join a trial you will probably want to know the implications. See taking part in Clinical Trials for some useful questions to ask.

Financial Support

Prescription charges

Since April 2009, patients undergoing treatment for cancer, the effects of cancer, or the effects of cancer treatment are entitled to exemption from prescription charges.

Affect on welfare benefits of a hospital stay

If you're getting certain welfare benefits, your entitlement may be affected if you go into hospital. See  the DWP leaflet and get in touch with the Big C welfare rights service

Travel costs involved if you choose a hospital further away

If your GP or the person who has referred you decides that you have a medical need for transport, patient transport services should be provided.

Otherwise if you're under the care of a consultant and you receive certain welfare benefits or are on a low income you may be entitled to help with your travel costs through the Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme (HTCS) See the NHS Choices "Help with Health Costs" leaflet

Finally, a Macmillian grant is a one-off payment for adults, young people or children with cancer, to cover a wide range of practical needs. This can include things such as heating bills, extra clothing or a much needed break. For more information see Macmillian How We Can Help Financial Support 



  1. If you are not happy with an NHS service you can make a complaint, ask the service provider you are complaining about (such as GP, dentist, hospital or pharmacist) for a copy of its complaints procedure, which will explain how to proceed.

  2. Alternatively, you can complain to the commissioner of that service, either NHS England NHS England Complaints or your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).  
  3. Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of the date of the event that you're complaining about, or as soon as the matter first came to your attention. If longer than this has passed you can still complain but specify why your complaint is late. There is discretion to extend the time limit if you have a good reason (so long as it's still possible to investigate the complaint)

  4. If you're still unhappy, you can refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman  who is independent of the NHS and Government.

  5. The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) may be able to help you resolve the matter. They are available in all hospitals. You can find them via They offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters to patients, their families and their carers. Also, there may soon be an independent advocacy service in your area to provide you with support if you are considering a complaint about NHS care or treatment. PALS will advise or go to  Support, Empower, Advocate, Promote (SEAP)

Your Doctor

Treatment from a GP

You are entitled to treatment from a GP at the surgery where you are registered. You have no automatic right, however, to see your own GP.
A GP must provide any treatment which is immediately necessary in an emergency, even if you are not registered with them.

Second opinions

You can ask your GP to arrange a second opinion either from a specialist or another GP. However, the GP does not have to do this if they do not think it necessary. You have no right to a second opinion.

You do have the right to see a GP competent to deal with your particular case. If a GP refers you for a second opinion, you cannot insist on seeing a particular practitioner. However, you should not be referred to someone you do not wish to see.

If the GP refuses to arrange a second opinion, you may wish to change your GP

Changing a GP

You can change your GP at any time you wish without having to give a reason. If you tell your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that you want to change your GP, they must give you details of how to do so and provide you with a list of alternative GPs. ), the list of those in Norfolk are here: Norfolk CCGs.

More information

More information about your rights with regard to GP services can be found here NHS GPs. 

And the General Medical Council publication What to expect from your Doctor - a Guide for Patients.

Hospital Referral

  1. For non urgent cases, there should be no more than 18 weeks from the time you are referred from a GP to beginning your treatment at a hospital. For urgent referral where cancer is suspected the time is no more than 2 weeks. This also applies to all patients referred for investigation of breast symptoms, even if cancer is not initially suspected. If these targets cannot be met, the NHS has to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of alternatives.

  2. Cancer patients should wait no more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of their first treatment. It is also expected that any subsequent surgical, drug or radiotherapy treatments will be delivered within 31 days. All patients should wait a maximum of 62 days from their urgent GP referral to the start of their treatment. This 62-day standard also includes all patients referred from NHS cancer screening programmes (breast, cervical and bowel) and all patients whose consultants suspect they may have cancer.

  3. Waiting lists do not operate on a last come, last served basis. Where you are on a waiting list depends on a range of circumstances and may change. If your condition deteriorates dramatically, your GP may recommend you be seen as a matter of greater urgency. How long you will have to wait for a date to see a specialist or have an operation, will therefore depend on the severity of your condition, how busy the specialist is and other demands on the hospital facilities.

  4. For more information see  NHS Choices - Rights and Pledges. You may have a choice from a number of hospitals – see 'Your rights to choice of hospital'.

Other sources of help

Information about NHS services

For more information about NHS services available to you, health advice and information, well-being and informed decision-making about health-care providers – see  the NHS Choices website.

Also, for detailed information on local health services, including quality standards and maximum waiting times contact your Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)), the list of those in Norfolk are here:  Norfolk CCGs.  Or try the local Norfolk Healthwatch  or hospital-based Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS) found via NHS Choices

The NHS constitution

Some of your rights as an NHS patient are set out in the NHS constitution. See this guide to the NHS Constitution A copy of the constitution itself is on the Department of Health website at:

The Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission checks all hospitals and providers of primary health services (for example, GPs and dentists) to see if they are meeting government standards. See to find out about what to expect from them. You can also give feedback about the standard of care you received, but individual complaints cannot be dealt with.

Alternative therapies

Some private treatments will include alternative therapies. Alternatively your GPs may be qualified in some alternative therapies themselves and may offer these as part of their NHS treatment. In some areas GPs may be able to refer a client to alternative practitioners, but this will not always be available – check with your GP.

 Private treatment

  1. If you want to pay for a treatment privately because it isn’t available on the NHS, your NHS care will continue to be free of charge. The NHS cannot pay for or subsidise your private hospital treatment. Your private hospital treatment must be given separately from your NHS treatment. For more information click here

  2. It is possible to seek private treatment from a consultant or specialist without being referred by your GP. However, the British Medical Association (BMA) believes that, in most cases, it is best practice for patients to be referred for specialist treatment by their GP.

  3. If your GP thinks you need specialist treatment and you want to pay for it privately, if they think it is appropriate they can write a letter of referral to a private consultant or specialist explaining your condition and your medical history.

  4. If you have private medical insurance,insurance companies usually require a letter of referral - some companies will accept GPs’ referrals to consultants, while others have their own lists of consultants.Before claiming you will need to check this, and also see if your policy covers the treatment that you need 



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