PATIENTS in England will be encouraged to choose where they receive NHS care under new Government plans to help cut waiting lists.
NHS England has issued a letter to local areas that will require patients to be offered choice “when clinically appropriate”.
Plans call for patients in consultation with their GP to be provided information on a minimum of five providers where possible. This will include details on waiting times, distance to travel and “quality” to help choose where to go for treatment, using the NHS App or website and based on individual circumstances.
NHS England says that currently only one in 10 patients exercise their right to choose but research shows that giving patients choice can cut up to three months off their waiting time by selecting a different hospital in the same region.
Plans include expanding use of the NHS App and website to improve how patients choose to receive care and to make the process easier for GPs when referring patients for treatment.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Every patient should be able to easily choose where they go to receive treatment and today’s package will put that power in their hands.
"This will not only give patients more control over their own care but could also wipe months off their wait by finding a hospital or clinic with a shorter waiting list."
Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, commented: “This move by the NHS to give patients a choice of up to five healthcare providers in the same region, when clinically appropriate, should speed up access to operations and help to tackle the backlog. The campaign should encourage and make it easier for more patients to exercise their long-established right to choose where they receive their care.
“However, the need to increase surgical capacity within the NHS remains. We support the use of the independent sector in the short term to help tackle the backlog, but it cannot be a permanent fix. We need more operating theatres, as well as nursing and anaesthetic staff to support surgeons. NHS Trusts must also ensure that training opportunities are still provided for surgical trainees when operations move to the independent sector.
“In addition to the convenience afforded by the NHS app and website in reducing waiting times, we would like to see surgical hubs established in every area of the country, allowing patients access to operations sooner in their own areas.”
This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.