Man and woman in hospital waiting room

More choice for NHS patients as government moves to cut waiting lists

Patients are set to benefit from reduced waiting times as the government moves to give people more choice over where they receive their care via updates to the NHS App.

The changes mean that, after speaking to their GP, patients will now be able compare waiting times, quality of care and the distance of up to five healthcare providers.

Previous research conducted by the Patients Association in conjunction with the independent sector last year showed how people would only need to travel an average of 13.2 miles to go from one of the worst performing providers to the best – doing so could save an average of 14 weeks’ worth of waiting.

New software and IT updates will also make it easier for GPs to refer patients for treatment with training set to be rolled out to ensure staff can make the most of the technology.

An awareness campaign will also be launched advising patients to use their right to choose, with figures suggesting only one in 10 do so at the moment.

“Earlier this year, our survey of patients’ experience of healthcare found around only one in six patients we questioned had been given the opportunity to choose where they had their hospital care,” the Patients Association’s chief executive, Rachel Power, said.

“We hope the planned communications campaign will clearly explain choice and encourage people to exercise it.”

Those without access to the requisite technology can either choose a different provider with the help of their GP or call the National Referral Helpline.

Reasonable travel costs will also be refundable with the government and NHS keen to ensure travel is not a roadblock.

NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, added: “By giving patients greater choice and more information about their care through the convenience of the NHS app, we can change the way people access treatment options while also building on the fantastic work already being done by NHS staff across the country in bringing down the longest waits for care.”

Director of the Global Business School for Health at University College London, Professor Nora Colton, commented: “Many of us who had yet to remove the NHS app from our phones following the pandemic were left wondering whether it had a point. It’s good to see that the Government is using existing digital infrastructure and realising that the NHS app has the potential to be very useful for increasing access to care for patients.

"However, investing in health tech should be considered across the NHS - for example research has shown that clinicians currently spend 70% of their time on admin. Adopting new technologies like AI and automation will give our health workforce the time to care. Alongside increasing productivity, investing in health tech and automation can support staff by freeing up clinicians to focus their time and energy on patients.”

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