- Critics say the move could exclude those who feel too old or sick to travel.
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Patients who have spent at least ten months on the NHS waiting list will be offered treatment hundreds of miles away.
Letters, emails and text messages will be sent to about 400,000 patients asking if they would be willing to travel for faster care.
They will be asked how far they are willing to go (50 miles, 100 miles or nationwide) before being assigned to alternative hospitals that can see them sooner. Health leaders say the move will maximize NHS capacity while giving patients more choice and control.
But critics say it is “not a magic bullet” and could exclude those who feel too old or sick to travel.
Patients will be eligible if they have been waiting more than 40 weeks and do not have an appointment scheduled within the next eight weeks (about 5 percent of those on the record 7.75 million waiting list).
Patients who have spent at least ten months on the NHS waiting list will be offered treatment hundreds of miles away (File Image)
The NHS will use a “matching platform” launched earlier this year to link patients with NHS and private sector hospitals outside their area. If an alternative hospital is not found within two months, the patient will remain with their current provider and maintain her position on the waiting list.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said it demonstrated “the clear benefits of a single national health service, with staff able to share capacity across the country”.
He added: “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 patient waiting times, while also that we improve the options and control they have. about your own care.
“Therefore, 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.’
Critics say it is “not a magic bullet” and could exclude those who feel too old or sick to travel (File Image)
The latest data shows that around 397,000 patients have been waiting more than a year for treatment, and almost 9,000 have waited more than 18 months. Patients will be contacted directly by their NHS trust or independent sector provider and should not contact their GP or hospital.
Funding and support will be available to help those struggling to travel, such as taxis or hotels for older or disabled people. However, the NHS admitted that a number of patients will not qualify if their clinical condition is too complex, making travel inappropriate.
Rory Deighton, of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service employers, said the move would ease pressure on some of the most strained parts of the system.
He added: “Adjusting demand to places with capacity is sensible and will be beneficial for those patients who are able and willing to travel.”
“But health leaders will be aware that this plan will not work for everyone, as some patients will not feel able or comfortable to travel far for their treatment, and others with minor health problems may prefer to wait for an appointment to receive treatment”. available at your local healthcare provider.
Health 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.”