patient choice

Largest expansion of patient choice in 10 years set for autumn launch

The government has announced that the largest expansion of patient choice in the NHS in a decade will commence in the coming months.

The move will see patients requiring routine treatment outside of hospitals offered the chance to choose between multiple services across the NHS, charity and independent sectors.

NHS England (NHSE) will now engage with integrated care boards (ICBs) on preparatory work so pilots can be launched in local areas from the autumn. NHSE will encourage ICBs to consider expanding the range of providers of services already covered by existing choice regulations, such as mental health.

The government and health service intend to launch further expansions, subject to the results of the trials.

Victoria Atkins comment

Services which could be within scope for the pilots include:

  • Hearing aid care
  • Some diagnostic tests, such as endoscopy
  • Dietetics and nutrition
  • Ambulatory ECG (heart activity)
  • Podiatry

“Today’s announcement represents the largest expansion of choice in the NHS in a decade,” said the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

He added: “From hearing aid care to mental health treatment and diagnostic tests such as endoscopy, our new approach will help speed up treatment, improve the quality of care and ensure that patients have more choice over where they receive treatment.

“Expanding choice will not only help get patients the care they need more quickly but is part of our plan to cut waiting lists, building on the progress we have already made with a fall of almost 200,000 since September.”

Patients can already choose where they receive care when referred to an in-hospital consultant led service – they are offered information on a minimum of five providers to determine the best route in regard to waiting times, travel distance and care quality.

The government has also jointly announced with the NHS today that they will implement the recommendations of the chair of the Independent Patient Choice and Procurement Panel that help to remove the barriers to patients exercising choice. This will include publishing more data on choice and appointment bookings.

Image credit: iStock

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