Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said: “This new step to offer NHS patients who have been waiting longer the opportunity to consider traveling for treatment is just another example of how we are introducing new approaches to reduce the time waiting for patients. , while improving the choice and control they have over their own care.
“Offering this additional option to these patients also demonstrates the clear benefits of a single national health service, with staff able to share capacity across the country.
“So whether a patient’s care is moved to the next city or somewhere further afield, 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.”
Steve Barclay, Health Secretary, said: “Empowering people to choose where and when they receive their treatment will help tackle waiting lists and improve access to NHS care.
“From today, those waiting 40 weeks or more will have more options to speed up treatment, including in hospitals with shorter waiting times or using capacity within the independent sector.
“This is the next step in our plan to build a health service around patients and is a continuation of the rollout of community diagnostic centres, surgery centers and virtual wards to unlock NHS capacity.”
‘This solution will only help those who can afford to travel’
Louise Ansari, chief executive of Health Watch England, which represents patients, said: “Many patients facing long waits for care will welcome the news that they can now choose to travel for treatment if it means they will be seen sooner.
“However, without NHS support for transport and accommodation costs, this solution will only help those who can afford to travel for faster care.
“There are currently record numbers of people stuck on NHS waiting lists, and our research has repeatedly highlighted the impact that long waits have on patients, particularly people from groups facing health inequalities, including people with lower income.
“People have also told us that they would welcome the opportunity to travel to receive care more quickly, as long as the additional costs incurred are covered.”
He called on NHS England and local health services to ensure that everyone who chooses to travel for faster treatment has their transport and accommodation costs covered.
NHS officials said trusts would consider each patient on a case-by-case basis, and if patients decided not to travel due to lack of financial support, they would retain their original place on the waiting list.
However, Patricia Marquis, director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, said: “The movement of patients around the country is a sign that the system is in poor health. “Millions of people are on waiting lists, in part because the Government is not investing in the nursing workforce needed to address the backlog.”
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said staff were working “full steam ahead” to reduce waiting times in the face of unprecedented demand, suggesting that tackling shortages and ending strikes would be more effective ways to reduce delays. you wait
“Giving patients who can have the opportunity to go elsewhere for treatment is not a magic solution to tackling the causes of the record number of people on NHS waiting lists, which experts predict could rise to more than eight million for next summer. “Long waiting times are a symptom of years of severe workforce shortages and underinvestment in the NHS,” she said.