Patients who need knee surgery or a hip replacement will be able to attend any hospital in England, the government has said.
The move, announced by ministers, is part of the government's plan to give patients better control over their own healthcare and to avoid potentially lengthy waiting lists in their local area.
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt said that the government was "determined to put patients at the heart of the NHS".
"Patient choice is about people being in control. Patients needing a hospital appointment should have the right to pick and choose the time, date and place," she told BBC News.
However, the British Medical Association argued that patients "would rather the resources were used to make sure their local hospital was of a good standard, clean and offers the right quality of care".
Many patients have become frustrated by lengthy NHS waiting lists for procedures such as knee surgery and hip replacements and have chosen to pay for private surgery to ensure speedy pain relief in a hospital of their choice.
Independent advice on private healthcare