NHS England patients are to be given a choice of hospitals through the NHS App and website.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced the move, saying it is aimed at shortening waiting times for treatment.
NHS England has written to local organisations saying that, after speaking with their GPs, patients should be able to view information on a minimum of five providers when possible through the app or website. This should include information on waiting times, distance to travel and quality to help them make a choice.
Newly updated software should enable GPs to use their IT systems in referring patients for treatment.
Patients who do not have access to the necessary technology can speak to their GPs or call the National Referral Helpline to talk through their shortlist.
DHSC said that just one in 10 patients currently exercise their right to choose, but research has shown that giving them a choice to select a different hospital can cut up to three months off waiting times.
Changing access to treatment
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “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, the NHS reduced 18-month waits for care by more than 90% by April and 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.”
DHSC said the NHS App now has over 32 million sign-ups and receives around 75 million visits per month. Patients can already use it book and manage GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and manage hospital referrals.
The move will be accompanied by another under which, from October, patients on waiting lists for more than 40 weeks without a treatment date will be asked whether they want to switch hospitals through mutual aid arrangements between trusts.