Health commissioners in west Hertfordshire have decided to keep ‘patient choice’ in their constitution.

Patient ‘choice’ is often said to be at the heart of the NHS – giving patients the right to choose where they see a GP, who they see and which hospital they are treated at.

But last Thursday (April 25) Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group considered taking all mention of ‘patient choice’ out of their latest constitution.

Professional advice offered to the CCG during  a legal review of the draft document suggested that the clause referring to patient choice was “open-ended” and that “the policy direction in the NHS generally is moving away from promoting choice.”

But at the meeting, members of the governing body decided that the reference to ‘choice’ should remain, after all.

Commenting on the decision, a spokesperson for the Herts Valleys CCG said: “We were undertaking a review of the constitution as a whole, particularly in the light of the publication of the new NHS England model CCG constitution.

“One of the suggestions from our legal advisers was to reconsider the clause around patient choice.

“This was in order to better reflect the fact that community pathways are increasingly replacing activity in major acute hospitals (in line with our strategy in Hertfordshire and indeed the national NHS strategy); the choice policy is about patients’ right to choose which hospital they go to for their care.

 “The board chose not to delete the item because, although patients are accessing more care in their communities rather than having to attend major hospitals, choice is a fundamental part of the NHS constitution and the constitution was strengthened to make reference to this specifically.”

In the new constitution ‘choice’ occurs just once. It states: “At all times, the CCG shall act with a view to enabling patients to make choices in respect of those health services provided for them.”

In addition to the reference to ‘choice’, the constitution outlines a number of ways patients can become involved in the decisions made by the CCG.

It says local people will be encouraged to become involved in the planning and development of CCG commissioning arrangements.

It highlights the role of the ‘patient and public involvement committee’ and patient representation on the governing body.

And it commits to publish clear information on its website about the ways local people can participate.

Members of the Herts Valleys CCG governing body considered the changes to the constitution at their meeting on April 25.