Patients to benefit from largest expansion of choice in a decade

  • 20th May 2024

Patients requiring treatment outside of hospitals will be able to choose between multiple providers across the NHS and independent sector

Patients will get more choice over providers for a range of procedures including ECGs

Patients could benefit from a wider range of healthcare services as the Government announces its intention to roll out the biggest expansion of choice in the NHS in a decade.

Under the proposals, patients requiring routine treatment outside of hospitals will be able to choose between multiple services across the NHS and independent sector.

This will give patients access to faster, more-convenient treatment.

Services that could be offered under the expansion include endoscopy, nutrition, and podiatry.

And NHS England will be engaging with integrated care boards (ICBs) with a view to launching pilots in local areas from this autumn, actively encouraging ICBs to consider expanding the range of providers of services already covered by existing choice regulations, such as mental health.

Improved patient choice can lead to shorter waiting times for patients, where another option is available and is clinically appropriate. It may also have an impact on the overall longer waiter position by either incentivising providers to offer appointments or enabling prioritisation of long waiters across the system.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “Today’s announcement represents the largest expansion of choice in the NHS in a decade.

“From hearing aid care to mental health treatment and diagnostic tests such as endoscopy, our new approach will help speed up treatment, improve the quality of care, and ensure that patients have more choice over where they receive treatment.

“Expanding choice will not only help get patients the care they need more quickly, but is part of our plan to cut waiting lists, building on the progress we have already made with a fall of almost 200,000 since September.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, added: “Empowering patients to take control of their own healthcare decisions is a key part of my missions to make the NHS faster, simpler, and fairer for everyone that uses it.

“Expanding patient choice will enable people to choose when, where and how they are treated – putting power in the hands of the patients.”

And Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “We welcome the expansion of patient choice to care received outside of a hospital.

“To benefit as many patients are possible, the NHS must make sure patients know they have a choice, are supported to make the best choice for them, and the pilots must be accessible.”

Over the coming months, NHS England will begin work with a subset of ICBs to work through the practical actions to establish choice in new pathways including identifying the barriers as well as quantifying the activity, financial, and capacity impacts.

In the expansion of choice, ICBs will include a range of providers across the NHS, charity, and independent sectors to offer services to patients, which will be free at the point of use and at NHS costs and standards.

The Government and NHS has also announced today that it will implement the recommendations of the chair of the Independent Patient Choice and Procurement Panel that help to remove the barriers to patients exercising choice, including by publishing more data on choice and appointment bookings to help ensure that patients are more readily able to choose their hospital care and support the further expansion of choice.

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