GPs will be expected to advise patients on possible options, under the new arrangements which were set out in a consultation document published last week.
The DH said it wants patients ‘to have more say’ before they receive a diagnosis and plans to introduce the new arrangements within a year.
‘From April 2013, patients will be able to pick somewhere closer to home or near where they work, instead of having to go to the nearest available option,’ the DH said in a statement.
‘They will make these decisions in partnership with their doctor, who can help advise them on which choice would be most appropriate for them.’
The DH consultation document states: ‘In future, the presumption should be that patients referred by their GP for the most common diagnostic tests would be able to choose the provider of these tests as well as where and when they are carried out, unless there are medical reasons not to.’
Commenting on the plans health secretary Andrew Lansley said the changes would make life easier for patients.
‘We will make medical tests work for you, not the system, by allowing you to choose where it will be most convenient for you to go,’ he said.