IHPN welcomes government moves to empower patients

We are welcoming the government’s announcement today of a series of measures to empower patients and help them to make more informed choices about where and when they receive NHS care.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has unveiled plans to ensure that patients have easier access to a range of choices, including enhancing the use of the NHS app, so that patients can find out more information and choose from a variety of providers – both from the NHS and independent sector.

Mr Sunak said: “Empowering patients to choose where they receive treatment will help cut waiting lists, one of my five key priorities.

“Currently, just one in ten patients make a choice about where they receive care. We want to change that by helping the NHS to offer patients a real choice while also giving patients the information they need to decide.

After speaking with their GP, patients will be able to view information for up to five healthcare providers – filtered by distance, waiting times and quality of care. They will then be able to make a choice about where they go for treatment using the NHS App or website, based on their own circumstances.

Our chief executive, David Hare, said: “We welcome today’s announcements from the Government, and patients will too.

“An awareness campaign to help the public understand their rights to choose is good news. We know many patients want to be given a choice as it can dramatically reduce their wait for NHS care. But too often patients are unclear that they have the right to choose a health care provider to deliver their NHS care – whether an NHS organisation or an independent sector one – free at the point of use.

“Delivering new ways for patients to use the NHS App to choose and progress their care is a very exciting development. It’s great to see this functionality and capability being rolled out. Millions of people downloaded the app during the pandemic, so using this technology will really help modernise how we access healthcare, putting control into the hands of patients themselves.”

The government highlighted research by IHPN and Patients Association in our joint report Time to Choose which identified that some patients could take months off their wait times by switching provider, travelling just half an hour by car.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “We hope this announcement will make it easier for patients in England to use their long-established right to choose where they receive their care.

“Work we’ve done shows patients’ awareness of choice is not high, nor are many offered choice regularly. Earlier this year, our survey of patients’ experience of healthcare found around only 1 in 6 patients we questioned had been given the opportunity to choose where they had their hospital care.”