NHS England (NHSE) has said it will strengthen the ability of patients to exercise choice in elective care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan commitment to personalised care.
Proposals published last week outline plans to roll out out the e-RS capacity alerts project, which is being piloted in London, nationally.
The pilots have yet to be fully evaluated, but early indications suggest a 38% reduction in referrals to clinics with long waiting times. The system attempts to divert patients at the point of referral towards those providers with lower waiting times through a colour-coding system that places a red flag against providers with limited capacity and a green box listing alternative providers with good capacity.
According to the Behavioural Insights Team, which is working with NHSE and the Elective Care Transformation Programme to help deliver the pilots, if rolled out nationally, the system could result in 40,000 people a month being placed on shorter waiting lists.
NHSE said it also plans to work with CCGs to ensure that choice is embedded within their systems, procedures, culture and expectations.
‘The NHS Long Term Plan is clear that the ability of people to choose where they have their treatment remains a powerful tool for delivering improved waiting times and experiences of care,’ it said.
The Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has welcomed the move.
CEO David Hare said the proposals will go ‘a huge way in kickstarting progress towards ensuring all patients can make meaningful choices about their care’.
‘The commitment to better enable people to exercise choice and control in elective care is hugely welcome at a time when NHS waiting lists for surgery are growing ever longer,’ he said. ‘While patients have had the legal right to choose where they receive their NHS care for well over a decade now, we know that the public’s awareness around this remains worryingly low.
‘Empowering patients to exercise their right to choose is therefore not just the right thing to do, but leads to tangible improvements in patient outcomes and experiences and we look forward to working with NHS England to take this exciting agenda forward.’