Shake-up will let patients ‘shop around’ for treatment

Patients will be encouraged to book private treatment through the app in a bid to slash waiting lists, it was claimed last night. Delays for routine treatments have reached a record 7.33million and are predicted to keep rising, forcing increased use of private hospitals.

But there is a cross-party consensus this will only happen if patients are given a choice about where they are treated.

The NHS app will play a significant role in encouraging choice and reducing queues as it will allow patients to shop around private treatment centres for short waiting times.

Rishi Sunak believes that offering patients better data on their local hospital’s performance and more options on location will put pressure on poor performers and drive up standards.

Patients will be encouraged to book private treatment through the NHS app (pictured) in a bid to slash waiting lists, it was claimed last night

Patients will be encouraged to book private treatment through the NHS app (pictured) in a bid to slash waiting lists, it was claimed last night

GPs are expected to be more closely monitored to see whether they routinely offer a choice of providers to patients, including private centres.

In the coming weeks, the Prime Minister is expected to promote patient choice and publish a report recommending increased treatment capacity ‘as far as possible via the independent sector’.

Patient choice will become ‘the default mechanism’ for those who are referred for routine care and Mr Sunak is expected to insist that voice is made central to the NHS.

Wha is the NHS App?

The NHS App lets you access a range of NHS services.

You can download it on your phone or tablet or access the same services in a online through the NHS website.

You must be aged 13 or over and registered with a GP surgery in England or the Isle of Man to use it.

What you can do with the NHS App

  • order repeat prescriptions and nominate a pharmacy where you would like to collect them
  • book and manage appointments
  • view your GP health record to see information like your allergies and medicines (if your GP has given you access to your detailed medical record, you can also see information like test results)
  • book and manage coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations
  • get your NHS COVID Pass (there are also other ways to get your COVID Pass)
  • register your organ donation decision
  • choose how the NHS uses your data
  • view your NHS number (find out what your NHS number is)
  • use NHS 111 online to answer questions and get instant advice or medical help near you

Sir Tony Blair introduced a patient’s right to choose where they are treated but the power to exercise this right has diminished as the NHS focuses on other priorities.

From a total of 1.5million procedures per month paid for by the NHS, the private sector performs around 140,000 of these.

According to The Times, the government is considering how this can be scaled up with the NHS app expected to encourage choice and allow patients to find shorter waiting times.

Currently only 28 NHS hospitals allow patients to manage their appointments via the app but this is expected to be expanded and private hospitals will be included for the first time.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We have already started to implement the elective recovery task force’s work and a full plan will be published soon — outlining how we can go even further to unlock the independent sector.’

More outsourcing of cancer checks is also expected to be part of the plan in a bid to tackle delays that doctors fear will lead to thousands of early deaths.

Only 63.5 per cent of patients who receive a cancer diagnosis begin treatment within two months of a referral for tests against a target of 85 per cent that hasn’t been hit for nine years.

At present 106 community diagnostic centres offering blood tests and scans and dozens more run by the private sector are expected to increase the number to about 190.

Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund think tank, told The Times when choice was introduced in 2000s, GPs had found it ‘irritating’ and patients were more keen.

He said: ‘The first response you get is, ‘we just want to go to our local hospital, so can’t you just make the waiting list low?’, ‘ he said. He added that using the app would ‘remove some of the bureaucracy’ but many patients would still want to speak to their GP.’

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