Video report by ITV Granada Reports' journalist Mel Barham.
A solicitor who travelled 250 miles for hip surgery is encouraging others to look further afield for their treatment.
It comes as figures shows more than half of people in the North West are not aware of their legal right to choose or change hospital to reduce waiting times.
Findings by Health Compare shows more than one million people in the region are on the waiting list, and almost half have been waiting over 18 weeks since being referred.
Dominic Moss, 56, drove from his home in Northwich, in Cheshire, to a hospital in East Sussex to have a hip replacement.
But he says it was not about waiting times - it was about being able to choose the surgeon that he wanted.
He said: "When you're talking about your hip and when you talk about your body, I don't think traveling 250 miles is that stupid.
"I'd much rather do that and know I'm getting the best possible chance of a good result than actually not do that and walk away disappointed."
The 56-year-old solicitor is sharing his story to encourage other people to do the same. "I really do feel that people should make an informed choice about what it is they're having done to them. And by whom," he explains.
"You would do all that with the car, wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you do that with something that's actually going to affect your health or your body?"
Meanwhile, Winston Baldwin, a 73-year-old dairy farmer from Crewe, has been waiting since October 2019 for an operation on his triple hernia at Leighton Hospital.
He was not aware of his rights to ask for treatment elsewhere until ITV Granada Reports journalist Mel Barham told him.
Out of desperation, the 73-year-old has been looking at treatment options at a private hospital in London or America because he says he has no quality of life.
He said: "You're in limbo and you're half hoping - half expecting - you'll get a letter that somebody will want to see you and somebody will make some improvement in your life.
"I paid all my life into the system, paid my taxes. I've been a good lad. I've not broken the law. And this is this is how you end up but I'm not a forceful person.
"I'm a person who's entitled to a quality of life. This isn't good fun. This is an existence."
Health Compare Founder, Andrew Burgess, has helped design a free website to help people understand their right to choose and research alternative treatment options.
He said: "Waiting times for NHS-funded hospital treatment can vary across the country by up to six months, depending on the treatment so it's well worth researching your options, if you are to be referred or if you have already been referred and have been waiting over 18 weeks for treatment to start."
But Winston told Granada Reports that he feels that GPs and hospital staff should be doing more to make sure patients like him know they have a right to look elsewhere.
Liverpool GP Dr Arun Ghosh admitted that doctors could and should be doing more to solve the waiting list problem.
He said: "One of the reasons for this campaign is not just to educate the public but also to educate doctors, that we can be telling our patients if they've been waiting longer than 18 weeks, they actually should be giving them the right to change that hospital.
"This is a National Health Service and we need to use it as such.
"Sometimes what we're doing is bottlenecking people into particular hospitals when actually we can use the whole national service of 700 different hospitals and even out the spread of unfortunately a never-ending cycle of people who need to be seen."
A spokesperson for Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are unable to comment in detail about individual patients due to confidentiality reasons but would like to emphasise that we take any issues raised regarding a patient’s care very seriously.
“We are continuing to liaise with Mr Baldwin directly about his ongoing care and treatment. In the meantime, we would like to apologise for the delays experienced during what we appreciate has been a worrying time.”
What should I do if I have been on the waiting list for longer than 18 weeks?
Health Compare say patients have a legal right to have free NHS treatment at another NHS or private hospital and to change hospital if they have waited over 18 weeks.
You can use the Health Compare website to choose a hospital for your treatment here.
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