Key facts and links
In 2006, GPs typically referred patients to an average of 12 different healthcare providers a year, mainly in the NHS. By 2010 that had risen to 18, mainly because they were encouraged to offer patients a wider list of places to be treated.
Since then 106 companies have been licensed to provide NHS community services.
"There are now 195 independent hospitals and treatment centres in England where patients can be treated at NHS prices under the "choose and book" system, which has expanded patient choice through a market based system."