- NHS patients who have been waiting the longest for treatment will be offered the chance to travel to a different hospital to be seen sooner.
- Around 400,000 patients will be contacted, as the Government delivers on one of its five priorities to cut wait times.
Greg Hands has welcomed the Government’s announcement that hundreds of thousands of patients will have more choice in their own care as those who have been waiting the longest for treatment will be offered the opportunity to travel to a different hospital, if it means they could be seen sooner.
As part of the ambitious NHS Elective Recovery Plan, patients 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. Eligible patients will be contacted by their hospital via letter, text, or email.
Offers will be sent to the 400,000 eligible patients who will then be able to submit their details, including how far they are willing to travel. NHS teams can then identify whether any alternative hospitals have capacity to see them sooner.
In some instances, the patient’s request will be uploaded to the NHS’ innovative hospital matching platform – the Digital Mutual Aid System - to see if NHS or independent sector providers elsewhere in the country can take on their care.
The progress is thanks to the hard work of NHS staff and thanks to innovations including surgical hubs, community diagnostic centres, and the use of robots and AI to speed up surgery and other treatments.
It is estimated that around 400,000 patients (5% of the overall waiting list) meet the criteria and will be contacted by their hospital, as the Government delivers on one of its top five priorities to cut waiting lists.
If no alternative is found within eight weeks of starting the process, the patient will remain with their current provider and keep their position on the waiting list. Some patients will not be eligible if their clinical condition is too complex, making it inappropriate to travel.
Eligible patients will be contacted directly by their NHS trust or independent sector provider where they are currently waiting to receive treatment and should not contact their GP practice or hospital.
Commenting, Greg Hands said:
“For those waiting the longest for treatment, this new step will give patients the opportunity to travel to a different hospital to be seen sooner and receive their treatment.
With an estimated 400,000 patients to be contacted by their hospital, this will deliver on one of this Government’s priorities to cut wait times.”
Commenting, Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay said:
“Empowering people to choose where and when they receive their treatment will help tackle waiting lists and improve access to NHS care.
From 31 October, those waiting 40 weeks or more will be given more options to speed up treatment, including at hospitals with shorter waiting times or using capacity within the independent sector.
This is the next step in our plan build a health service around patients and follows on from the roll out of Community Diagnostic Centres, surgical hubs and virtual wards to unlock capacity in the NHS."
Commenting, Chief Executive Officer of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard said:
“This new step to offer NHS patients who have been waiting the longest the opportunity to consider travelling for treatment is just another example of how we are introducing new approaches to reduce how long patients wait, while improving the choice and control they have over their own care.
Giving this extra option to these patients also demonstrates the clear benefits of a single national health service, with staff able to share capacity right across the country.
So, whether a patient’s care moves to the next town or somewhere further away, it is absolutely right that we make the most of available capacity across the country to continue to reduce the backlogs that have inevitably built up due to the pandemic and provide the best possible service for patients.”