Henry Smith MP has welcomed the Government’s announcement to introduce measures to empower people to choose where they receive their NHS care under new plans to help cut waiting lists, one of the Prime Minister’s top five priorities.
A letter issued by the NHS to local areas will require patients to be offered choice on where they go for treatment using the NHS app or website when clinically appropriate.
“I’ve continued to highlight the impact of the pandemic on the NHS and it’s right that cutting NHS waiting lists is one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.
“Patients are being empowered to choose where they receive treatment; allowing them to choose which hospital they are treated at, as well as increasing the information they have about waiting times and quality when they do so.”
From today, the Government is expanding the way the NHS app and website are used to improve how patients choose to receive their care. After speaking with their GP, patients will be able to view information for up to five healthcare providers – filtered by distance, waiting times and quality of care.
From October, those who have waited more than 40 weeks and not had a date confirmed for their appointment will be asked whether they want to switch hospitals to be seen more quickly, if clinically appropriate.
Currently just one in ten 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.
The NHS app, which serves as a digital front door to the NHS, has over 32 million sign ups and receives around 75 million visits a month. Using the app, patients can already book and manage their GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access hospital correspondence through the app.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said;
“Empowering patients to choose where they receive treatment will help cut waiting lists, one of my five key priorities.
“Currently, just one in ten patients make a choice about where they receive care. We want to change that by helping the NHS to offer patients a real choice while also giving patients the information they need to decide.
“Our aim is to create an NHS built around patients, where everyone has more control over the care they receive, wherever they live or whatever their health needs are.”
The Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Steve Barclay, commented;
“Every patient should be able to easily choose where they receive treatment and today’s package will put that power back in their hands.
“Millions of people downloaded the NHS app during the pandemic and increasing its use will enable people to exercise more choice and access key information about their care based on distance, waiting times and quality – all at the touch of a button.
“This will not only give patients more control over their own care but selecting a provider with a shorter wait could wipe months off their waiting time.
“Cutting waiting times is one of the Government top five priorities and we are already making progress to tackle the backlog and are rolling out community diagnostic centres and surgical hubs to boost the numbers of tests, scans and operations.”
The Chief Executive of NHS England, 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.
“Despite significant pressure, the NHS reduced 18 month waits for care by more than 90 per cent by April and alongside existing tools like elective hubs, surgical robots and ‘prehab’ checks, this is another way that we are continuing to embrace the latest innovations and tech for the benefit of patients.”
The Chief Executive of the Patients Association, Rachel Power, commented;
“We hope this announcement will make it easier for patients in England to use their long-established right to choose where they receive their care.
“Work we’ve done shows patients’ awareness of choice is not high, nor are many offered choice regularly. 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.
“We hope the planned communications campaign will clearly explain choice and encourage people to exercise it. We welcome news of the support general practice is to get, but with the current pressures on general practice, it will be important they are supported to work in partnership with their patients to increase uptake of patient choice.
“We hope the planned changes will lead to more patients exercising their right to choose where they have their treatment, enabling them to access and benefit from the healthcare they need to live well.”
The Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, David Hare, said;
“We welcome today’s announcements from the Government, and patients will too.
“An awareness campaign to help the public understand their rights to choose is good news. We know many patients want to be given a choice as it can dramatically reduce their wait for NHS care. But too often patients are unclear that they have the right to choose a health care provider to deliver their NHS care – whether an NHS organisation or an independent sector one – free at the point of use.
“Delivering new ways for patients to use the NHS app to choose and progress their care is a very exciting development. It’s great to see this functionality and capability being rolled out. Millions of people downloaded the app during the pandemic, so using this technology will really help modernise how we access healthcare, putting control into the hands of patients themselves.”