NHS App to wipe months off hospital waiting times

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced an update to the NHS App that gives patients more choice over their own care - and is expected to cut up to three months off their waiting time. 

The new feature, which will allow patients to manage their hospital appointments and choose where they receive their care, is part of a government plan to shorten waiting lists and improve the overall patient experience. 

NHS England has informed local organisations that patients, when clinically appropriate, are to be offered a choice of at least five providers, with information about waiting times, distance to travel and quality to help them make their choice. Patients will then be able to decide where they go for treatment using the NHS App or website, based on their own circumstances. 

DHSC said just one in ten patients currently exercise their right to choose where they receive their treatment, but research shows that giving patients a choice can cut up to three months off their waiting time by selecting a different hospital in the same region.

So far, 28 NHS hospitals currently allow patients to manage appointments via the app, but DHSC said this is expected to increase as it is rolled out across England. 

Transforming access to treatment

Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, highlighted the importance of embracing technology for the benefits of patients. 

"By giving patients greater choice and more information about their care through the convenience of the NHS app, we can change the way people access treatment options while also building on the fantastic work already being done by NHS staff across the country in bringing down the longest waits for care."

Despite significant pressure, Pritchard pointed out that the NHS reduced 18-month waits for care by more than 90% by April. "Alongside existing tools like elective hubs, surgical robots and ‘prehab’ checks, this is another way that we are continuing to embrace the latest innovations and tech for the benefit of patients," she said. 

The NHS App, which has over 32 million sign ups and receives around 75 million visits a month, continues to expand and provide people with better care. Patients are already able to book and manage their GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, and manage their hospital referrals through the app. 

DHSC said the next phase of the programme will see further features launched in the NHS App for patients in participating trusts. These will include receiving notifications and messages, the ability to complete pre-consultation questionnaires and being able to access documents relating to their appointments.

Another updated, starting from October, will see patients on waiting lists for more than 40 weeks without a treatment date asked whether they want to switch hospitals through mutual aid arrangements between trusts.

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