NHS partners network

Dr Howard Freeman: Worrying NHS figures demonstrate need to improve patients' awareness of right to choose

NHSPN and Confed

Performance figures released by NHS England today (9 February) show a worrying growth in waiting times for planned surgery, with the number of people waiting more than a year increasing by 63 per cent in the last 12 months. Responding to the figures, the NHS Partners Network is today warning that the Government must take steps to increase awareness amongst patients of their right to choose where they receive NHS treatment. This would help ensure they can access care as quickly as possible.

Only 50 per cent of patients are aware of their legal right to choose from which provider they receive NHS care and only 40 per cent recall being offered a choice of hospital by their GP, according to NHS England figures.

Patients have the legal right to choose whether they receive NHS treatment in an NHS hospital or in the independent sector, where hospitals are paid the same amount for treating patients and regulated to the same safety standards as the NHS.

Dr Howard Freeman, Clinical Director, NHS Partners Network said:

“Independent providers used by the NHS offer services to patients which are paid for at NHS prices, to NHS standards and free at the point-of-use.

“Patients have a legal right to choose which provider they receive NHS care from, so it is vital that the Government takes urgent steps to ensure they are given sufficient information to exercise this right and access care as quickly as possible.

“NHS hospitals are currently working flat out to cope with the pressures in A&E, however, it is important that the millions of people requiring vital elective treatment such as hip operations and cataracts are not forgotten.

“The NHS is currently desperately short of elective capacity and it has never been more important for the Government to remind patients’ of their right to choose their provider of care to ensure they can access the quickest available treatment.”Today’s NHS England figures showed:

  • The number of people waiting for more than a year for elective surgery has increased by 63 per cent in the last year, from 758 at the end of December 2015 to 1228 patients at the end of December 2016. 
  • The Government’s target to ensure 92 per cent of patients wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment for elective procedures, such as hip and knee operations, has not been met since February 2016. 
  • At end of December 2016 there were almost 3.7 million people waiting to receive elective care, compared with 3.3 million the previous year – a rise of over 10 per cent.

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