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Shop for surgeries in the NHS app: New plan lets patients browse hospitals with the shortest wait times

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According to a leaked memo, patients waiting for routine surgeries will soon be able to search for hospitals with the shortest queues using the NHS app.

Ministers want to revamp the app downloaded by a record number of Britons during the pandemic, mainly as a way to show their Covid vaccine passports.

More than 6.7 million patients in England are stuck on waiting lists for procedures such as hip replacements and cataract surgery – often in agony.

But now hospital chiefs have agreed to give patients more freedom to choose where they receive treatment in the latest effort to clear the record backlog.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay wants patients to have access to ‘real-time data’ on hospital waiting lists by April next year.

The hope is that by giving patients this information, a procedure can be performed more quickly, even if it means they may have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment.

It comes amid a warning that months of languishing patients on waiting lists is contributing to the A&E crisis, as people grappling with the pain of their condition flood emergency rooms.

Patients can shop around the hospital for the shortest wait times for routine surgeries such as knee and hip replacements under new NHS plans to be introduced next year

Hip patients are in a deadly zip code lottery for care, leaving some twice as likely to die than others

Patients with hip fractures face a zip code lottery, with some more than twice as likely to die within a month than others.

Every year, more than 70,000 people are admitted to a British hospital for a hip fracture.

A team from the University of Bristol found in some hospitals that 10 percent of patients died within 30 days, while others saw just 3.7 percent die. Some kept patients indoors for an average of 12 days, others 42 days.

In some hospitals, the chance that a patient would have to come back was about 4 percent, in others 30 percent.

Patients had a lower risk of dying in hospitals where staff met monthly to discuss patient feedback.

Deborah Alsina MBE, of Versus Arthritis, said: ‘Hip fractures mainly affect older people… quality of care is an important indicator of whether we are getting care for the elderly in general. This research suggests not.’

A spokesperson for the NHS said it was “constantly monitoring” data on care inequalities.

Currently GPs refer people requiring routine procedures to their local NHS services as standard.

Patients have the right to request another provider, but must independently find the hospital and neighbors and compare their waiting times.

This information is already available through the My planned care Place.

But a new plan to put this information within easy reach of the public via the NHS app would allow patients to make these decisions easily, health leaders believe.

Mr Barclay has now told the NHS to ensure GPs provide ‘a meaningful choice for patients at the point of referral, which can also be used during long waits for care’, according to a memo seen by The times.

This includes ‘real-time data on wait times broken down by providers’, including from private hospitals with public contracts, via the NHS app.

NHS England pledged yesterday to change its electronic referral system in line with the directive with the NHS app to display the same data GPs see, the memo said.

This data is updated weekly with the health department agreeing to implement the changes in April.

It is unclear whether the NHS will pay a patient’s travel or accommodation costs under the plan.

Ex Health Minister Sajid Javid promised earlier this year that the NHS would cover the costs for patients who were on waiting lists and chose to receive treatment at a less crowded hospital in another part of the country.

It is not known whether Mr Barclay, who is known for his “efficiency”, plans to extend his predecessor commitments.

The NHS app, originally launched in 2018, came to the fore during the pandemic as a way to generate Covid passes.

According to NHS Digital, the app had 22 million users at the start of the year.

The app has not taken off since then, as most Britons have the primary way of handling things like GP appointments, and many are removing these now that Covid passes are no longer needed.

The NHS has been told to perform 30 percent more routine surgeries, such as hip replacements, compared to pre-pandemic levels as part of the Covid recovery plan.

NHS data shows that waiting times for procedures vary wildly between hospitals in different parts of the country.

Patients wait just eight weeks for orthopedic surgeries such as hip or knee replacements at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

The NHS backlog for routine treatments grew from 6.4 million to 6.6 million in May, meaning one in eight people in England are now waiting for elective care, often with pain

The NHS backlog for routine treatments grew from 6.4 million to 6.6 million in May, meaning one in eight people in England are now waiting for elective care, often with pain

The left graph shows: The official NHS waiting list for elective surgery for patients waiting less than 18 weeks (light blue), between 18 weeks and one year (dark blue), between one year and two years (light red) and more than two years (dark red ).  Right graph shows: The official NHS waiting list (blue) compared to the estimated number of patients waiting for a follow-up appointment after surgery not included in official data (red)

The left graph shows: The official NHS waiting list for elective surgery for patients waiting less than 18 weeks (light blue), between 18 weeks and one year (dark blue), between one year and two years (light red) and more than two years (dark red ). Right graph shows: The official NHS waiting list (blue) compared to the estimated number of patients waiting for a follow-up appointment after surgery not included in official data (red)

10 million MORE patients in England stuck on ‘hidden’ NHS waiting list

More than 10 million additional patients are languishing on a hidden NHS waiting list that is not routinely published, analysis suggests.

Officially, the backlog for routine elective care, such as hip and knee replacements or cataract surgery, was 6.7 million in England in June.

But freedom of information (FOI) requests have revealed that an additional 10.3 million patients are awaiting follow-up care at the hospital.

That list, which is not publicly available, includes patients who need to be treated or monitored after surgery, as well as patients with long-term conditions who need to be monitored regularly.

Campaign groups criticized the figures, accusing the NHS of subjecting anxious patients to ‘radio silence’ about the status of their treatment.

It comes after it was revealed earlier this month that a further one million patients who are not on the NHS waiting list are waiting for non-hospital treatment such as physiotherapy.

NHS leaders blame the long wait for a record level of demand.

But patients from three hours away have to wait 34 weeks at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

In London alone, patients were able to cut nearly 10 weeks off their waiting time by going to the hospital just 30 minutes away.

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust has an average waiting time of 29 weeks, compared to 20 weeks at neighbor Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

The NHS’s huge waiting lists are also contributing to the health service’s A&E crisis, it is alleged.

Yesterday the NHS Confederation said patients awaiting surgery are turning to the country’s emergency departments who are unable to cope due to their pain and discomfort.

It’s because the elective care backlog is expected to grow further as more people come forward with health problems delayed by the pandemic.

Freedom of information requests published this month have revealed that an additional 10.3 million patients are awaiting follow-up treatment in hospital after surgery.

That list, which is not publicly available, includes patients who need to be treated or monitored after surgery, as well as patients with long-term conditions who need to be monitored regularly.

Eliminating the care backlog of the NHS is an increasing priority for Mr Barclay and his predecessor Mr Javid.

This involved offering alternative treatment locations to patients with shorter waiting times.

Mr Javid promised to eliminate the number of patients waiting more than two years in July, a target that was missed.

Earlier this month, ministers defended the failed goal, stating that there will always be a ‘small number’ of patients who choose to wait longer to be treated locally or require highly specialized care.

The government is now aiming to end 18-month waiting periods for NHS care by April next year.

Meanwhile, the NHS is also facing a ‘winter of discontent’ with the looming possibility that doctors will go on strike over wages.

One of the country’s top medics, Philip Banfield, chairman of the British Medical Association, said doctors must decide on a daily basis which patients live or die because of the ‘terrible state’ of the NHS.

He has called for an inflation-reducing pay rise of up to 30 percent for medics by next year.

The NHS is staring into the worst winter ever, with A&E and ambulance already waiting at record levels and mounting backlogs for scans and routine care.

Doctors in training have given ministers an ultimatum for the end of September: they warn they will vote on strike action if the current 2 percent wage offer is not improved.

Consultants and specialist doctors are also considering union action over their proposed 4 percent pay rise, which they say represents a real pay cut.

Nurses are also drafting battle plans with the Royal College of Nursing to open a vote on union action in the coming weeks.

The nurses’ union is demanding a 5% wage increase above inflation from its members. According to the Office of National Statistics, inflation stands at 8.8 per year in July.

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