The NHS will help match patients with hospitals with shorter waits further from home in a bid to reduce waiting lists and speed up access to care.
Patients will be given a profile detailing their symptoms or treatment needs and how far they are willing to travel for a diagnosis or procedure.
These can then be reviewed by managers and doctors at 650 NHS and private providers across the country who can take over your care if they have spare capacity.
Patients will have the opportunity to travel to the alternative hospital for their appointment, with the NHS covering the cost if provided by a private company.
Some consultations can even be carried out remotely by doctors hundreds of kilometers away from the patient.
Patients will be given a profile detailing their symptoms or treatment needs and how far they are willing to travel for a diagnosis or procedure. These can then be reviewed by managers and doctors at 650 NHS and private providers across the country who can take over your care if they have spare capacity.
More than 7.47 million patients in England, equivalent to one in eight people, were waiting for routine operations at the end of May, an increase of 56,700 in just one month.
It comes as waiting lists reach a record 7.5 million, with more than 835,000 appointments and operations canceled as a result of strikes by doctors, nurses and physiotherapists.
The online matching platform was initially introduced for patients requiring hospitalization, but is being expanded to include cancer, diagnostic checkups, and outpatient appointments.
Since its launch in January, over 1,700 support deals have been made with thousands of patients set to benefit as the platform grows.
The system is mainly used for patients who have been waiting longer, with health chiefs calling it a “key tool” as part of the NHS’s ongoing ambitions to reduce the covid backlogs that have built up during the pandemic.
But there is no requirement that patients have been waiting for a certain period of time before being added to the site.
Patient information is included to help organizations decide if they can take on the case, including how far the patient is willing to travel, severity of illness, their BMI, and how long they have been waiting for care.
If more than one provider offers treatment, the options are presented to the patient, who can then choose based on factors including the distance they would need to travel.
Gynecology, Colorectal and Trauma & Orthopedics are the top three specialties that have benefited from this digital mutual aid so far, but hundreds of different treatments or appointments can be uploaded.
Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “Despite significant pressure on services, NHS staff have already made incredible progress on our elective recovery plan, and this smart new tool will help us continue to reduce long waits for patients”.
“It demonstrates, once again, the benefits of having a national health service: NHS staff can now work even more closely with other hospitals across the country to identify capacity and conveniently allocate available treatment and patients to patients. dating spaces.
“Technology is already transforming the way we work in the NHS and we will continue to embrace the latest innovations, such as this one, to deliver the best possible care for patients.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We are already giving patients more choice about where to receive treatment and this will go even further by matching patients to services based on their clinical needs and personal preferences.”
‘This will help us perform thousands more diagnostic tests for serious diseases and treat people sooner, often without going to hospital.
“We are using all the tools at our disposal to reduce waiting lists, one of the government’s top five priorities, while this platform will also help us drive better collaboration between the NHS and the independent sector to treat patients more quickly”.
Research conducted last year by the Patient Association and the Independent Health Care Provider Network, which represents independent providers, found that nearly three-quarters of patients (73 percent) said they would be happy to travel more than 30 minutes for faster treatment.
In May, fewer than six in 10 cancer patients (58.7 percent) were seen within two months of an urgent referral from their GP for their first treatment. The NHS target states that the figure should be 85 percent.
More than 700,000 NHS appointments have been canceled since the strikes began seven months ago. In the last five-day strike by young doctors, more than 100,000 were canceled
Rachel Power, CEO of the Patient Association, said: “We welcome the expansion of the hospital comparison platform and believe it will make it even easier for patients and healthcare professionals to make a decision together about where to undergo a treatment or a test”.
“Patient choice has been a right for more than a decade, but not all patients are aware that they have that right and it is not always offered.
‘Hopefully making it easy for healthcare professionals to see the options of where patients can be treated will increase the number of patients who can take advantage of mutual aid within the NHS.
“We are very supportive of mutual aid. We have worked with the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) program on a mutual aid program in the East of England that gave patients the option of having surgery at a hospital other than their local one.
“We know that patients welcomed surgery earlier, and together with them and GIRFT, we have created information for other patients about the benefits of elective surgical centers.”
David Furness, director of policy and delivery at IHPN, said: “The hospital comparison platform is a good example of how the NHS and the independent sector can effectively work together for the benefit of patients to reduce delivery times. waiting time and get more attention. quickly.’
Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said: “This is a sensible and innovative initiative that could deliver longer-term benefits for the NHS and will be good for patients as it could speed up care for those who want to and they can travel.
“However, some patients may not be able to travel that far and may prefer to wait a little longer to attend their local hospital.
“But in the current environment it is important that we explore as many opportunities as we can, and this will help to better meet demand with very limited capacity, prioritizing patients who have been waiting the longest.”