Major NHS shake-up will let patients 'shop around' for treatment to slash waiting times | The Sun

AS NHS waiting lists reach new record highs, patients will be encouraged to 'shop around' for private treatments on the NHS app.

Figures released earlier this month show that 7.3 million people in England are waiting for hospital treatment – up by 114,000 between February and March.

More than 400,000 of them are children that have been left waiting for vital healthcare.

Hospitals also failed to hit a target of clearing all waits longer than 18 months by April, figures showed, with 10,737 still overdue from 2021.

In a bid to slash sky-high waiting times, patients will be encouraged to use the NHS app for private hospital bookings.

According to The Times, patients will be encouraged to use the app with dozens of private diagnostic centres offering checks for cancer and other conditions to speed up care and increase the NHS' capacity.

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The report said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believes offering more choice for patients on their local hospital's performance will increase standards across the board.

In the coming weeks, Mr Sunak is expected make this route the default for those referred for routine care.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer outlined his plan to improve the NHS in a speech today.

A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: "Cutting waiting lists is one of the government's top five priorities, with the NHS app playing a vital role in giving patients greater control over their own care and supporting elective care recovery.

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"We have already started to implement the Elective Recovery Taskforce's work and a full plan will be published soon, outlining how we can go even further to unlock the independent sector to get patients treated more quickly and reduce waiting lists."

The independent sector use of the NHS is up to 143 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the DHSC stated.

It also claimed 18-month waits have been cut by 91 per cent and two-year waits have been "virtually eliminated".

Sir Keir's speech addressed record numbers of people on waiting lists, putting pressure on Mr Sunak to provide a timeline to improve NHS standards.

He told the audience that a Labour government "will deliver an NHS that is there when you need it" if elected, adding: "No backsliding, no excuses. We will meet these standards again. We will get the NHS back on its feet."

By reforming the NHS and training the staff it needs, the party promised to hit NHS targets within five years in order to ensure ambulances get to people in time and patients see a GP when in need.

It also promised to address dangerously long A&E waits and guarantee shorter waits for hospital appointments when people need specialist care.

It comes after the government announced plans for patients suffering from a range of common illnesses to bypass GP waits and receive medicines from pharmacists instead.

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There are seven common ailments for which Brits can get drugs directly from pharmacies.

Recent official figures also showed that more than 23,000 people died in A&E in 2022.

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