New e-traffic light for GP referrals shows promise

AN e-traffic light system for GP referrals has proved successful in offering patients reduced hospital waiting times in a London pilot.

The Capacity Alert system was developed for NHS England by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) as tool to help hospital trusts ease pressure on services.

In the augmented GP referral systems a red light appears against a hospital with longer waiting times while a green light shows those with spare capacity, meaning doctors can offer patients potentially quicker routes to treatment and help them make more informed choices.

Results from two London trials this winter reduced referrals to overbooked hospitals by nearly 40 per cent, while increasing referrals to hospitals with available capacity by 14 per cent.

BIT is now supporting the roll-out of the Capacity Alert system across the NHS in England by holding a series of masterclasses and workshops, as well as producing a how-to guide for GPs and local NHS bodies.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England Director for Operations and Information, said: "This system makes it even easier for GPs and patients to understand hospital waiting times which will in turn see benefits for patients and hospitals.

"The Capacity Alert system is a good example of how smarter working and relatively simple innovations can lead to another big improvement in NHS services."

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said: "Sometimes the most simple-sounding ideas are the most effective, and this scheme appears to be a relatively straightforward way of improving the interface between primary and secondary care, in order to make our patients' journey through the NHS as seamless as possible. We look forward to seeing how this idea translates to other areas of the country in the best interests of patients and the wider NHS."

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