This analysis looks at how the concept of patient choice has worked in the NHS in recent years. It finds that the type of patient choice that contemporary health policy draws on almost exclusively is based on a flawed account of what choices actually mean for patients. Such conception of choice rests on the simplistic and erroneous assumption that appealing to patients’ self-interest will make them behave as consumers in a market place. For choice to work, policy design needs to recognise patients’ multiple needs and their bonds as community members, addressing them as socially embedded individuals. Users’ prior experiences, including their experience of health services, and how the reality of being ill might affect their health-related decisions, need to be accounted for.