Patients facing longer waits for routine operations will get the option to travel to different hospitals, amid plans to slash NHS waiting lists.
As part of plans to change the health service’s model for outpatient appointments, automatic follow-ups at nine and 12 months within some specialties may also be scrapped, sources have confirmed.
The Times reported on Wednesday that instead of regular follow-ups, patients will only be able to contact their doctors if they had a problem.
The government is expected to unveil its plans to tackle growing surgery backlogs early next week.
The news comes after the NHS revealed its waiting list for routine operations had reached an all-time high at 5.8 million. Earlier this year the NHS drafted in hospital chief executive, Sir Jim Mackey, to work up a plan to tackle this growing backlog.
The Independent was told hospitals are already drawing up proposals to share routine operation waiting lists locally. However, it is not clear whether there will be limits on how far a patient can be sent.
The NHS published plans in 2019 which said its outpatient model was “outdated and unsustainable” and promised to redesign the service to reduce the need for up to 30 million outpatient visits per year.
Speaking on Wednesday, CEO of NHS Providers Chris Hopson, said: “It is unlikely that people will have to travel across the country for care en masse, with most patients continuing to be seen in their local areas.”
He added: “If the outpatient model is changed, it must be firmly based, as always, on carefully managing clinical risk. The risk of exacerbating health inequalities must also be avoided.
“We will need to see the details of the plan when it is published, but we expect it will be firmly based on principles, such as, no patients being asked to miss an appointment that they clinically need, and patients always having access to a clinician when they need it.
One leading paediatric consultant told The Independent it would be “difficult” to apply the same plans, around the sharing of routine operations between hospitals, to children’s services due to a lack of specialist staffing in most areas.
Speaking at the National Children’s and Adult Services conference today chief executive for the NHS, Amanda Pritchard said the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, would be setting out the plans for elective care but a priority would be getting people “particularly those with the highest needs seen and treated as quickly as possible”.