Patients to be offered ‘wide choice’ of treatment options, says NHSE

David Hare

NHS England (NHSE) will give patients a ‘wide choice of options’ for elective treatment in a bid to get them faster care. 

The much anticipated NHS Long-Term Plan, published today (Monday 7 January), said the health service will make use of independent sector capacity to tackle rising waits for elective surgery.

According to the 136-page document, patients who have been waiting more than six months for procedures will be given the option of faster treatment at an alternative provider at NHS costs.

NHSE said it will create integrated care systems (ICSs) covering the whole country by April 2021, but that ICSs, as well as sustainability and transformation partnerships, will be required to ‘develop and implement’ their own strategies for how they will follow the plan and improve services over the next five years.

David Hare (pictured), Independent Healthcare Providers Network chief executive, said: ‘We welcome the renewed focus on short waits for elective care, the reiterated commitment to offering patients a choice of provider and the clear statement that independent sector capacity should be used to deliver these goals.

‘We need now to see this reflected in ambitious plans to recover NHS standards on waiting times,’ he said.

Welcoming the plan’s focus on growing ICSs, he said: ‘It is important that the guidance issued to local systems to support the production of their plans follows through on this commitment to openness.’

He added: ‘While we agree that work should be done to see if any legislative changes may be required to better join up health and care services, it is vital that any new procurement rules retain key principles around open and transparent processes and the need to ensure value for money for both patients and tax payers.’

As anticipated, the new Long-Term Plan includes renewed focus on mental health services, particularly for children and young people. It pledges to improve inpatient mental health services provided by the NHS and private operators over the next five years.

‘We will work with the [Care Quality Commission] to implement recommendations on restricting the use of seclusion, long-term segregation and restraint for all patients in inpatient settings, particularly for children and young people.

‘As well as focusing on the number of people in inpatient settings, we will closely monitor and – over the coming years – bring down the length of time people stay in inpatient care settings and support earlier transfers of care from inpatient settings,’ the plan said.

The government announced in December that it will introduce a new Mental Health Bill following a 2017 review of existing legislation.

The review said the regulator should develop new criteria for monitoring inpatient wards to minimise institutionalisation.