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Your rights in hospital

A hospital stay can be a difficult time, whether it’s a planned or emergency admission, but knowing what your rights are can make you feel more confident.

You have the right to:

  • Receive NHS services. You can’t be denied this on the grounds of race, religion, belief, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.
  • Receive NHS services within a maximum waiting time. You should start treatment within 18 weeks of the date you were referred by your GP, or be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral. If you can’t be seen within the maximum waiting time, your hospital must do what it can to offer alternatives.
  • Be treated by appropriately qualified and experienced staff, in a safe environment.
  • Receive drugs and treatments approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellent (NICE) that your doctor says are right for you.
  • Be treated with dignity and respect in accordance with your human rights.
  • Accept or refuse treatment that is offered to you. You should always be involved in discussions about your health and care, given information about the risks and benefits of any examinations and treatment, and asked if you agree to them before you receive them.
  • Expect the NHS to keep your confidential information safe and secure. You also have the right to access your own health records.
  • Expect the hospital to take complaints seriously. If you, or someone acting on your behalf, makes a complaint, it should be properly investigated.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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