Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, welcomes new measures to improve patient choice
A letter issued by the NHS today to local areas will require patients to be offered a choice of where they go for treatment using the NHS app or website when clinically appropriate: “We are 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 from up to five healthcare providers - filtered by distance, waiting times and quality of care.”
And from October, those who have waited more than 40 weeks and have 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 a 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.
Maria Caulfield MP said: “I very much welcome this announcement of new measures to allow patients to choose where they receive assistance from the NHS.
“Research carried out shows patients’ awareness of choice is not high, nor are many offered choice regularly and I know this is a big concern for my constituents who have raised with me on a number of occasions they would like the choice.
“I hope these 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.”
“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.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “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's 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.”
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “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% 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.”