The health secretary has said that he will give patients waiting for secondary care treatment the ‘right to choose’ their provider to help tackle the Covid backlog as part of a raft of reforms set to be announced this week.
Sajid Javid said that he will this week set out his ‘vision for modernisation and reform of our health service’, sharing a piece published by The Times yesterday with further details of the plans.
Although neither the health secretary nor The Times’ article mentioned the review of primary care, this was supposed to be announced at the end of February and may form part of the announcement this week.
In January, The Times reported that Sajid Javid is planning a review of primary care that could see GPs incentivised to join up with ‘academy-style’ trusts in a model like that in Wolverhampton, where nine GP practices subcontract their GMS contracts to the trust.
The ‘right to choose’ scheme will include private providers, and will initially be open to those facing the longest waits but could eventually be offered to all patients.
Mr Javid yesterday said on Twitter: ‘As we tackle the Covid backlog, we will enshrine a “Right to Choose” – giving NHS patients more options for the treatment they need.’
According to the newspaper, patients whose operations have been delayed will be able to choose from a list of providers online – including both NHS and private options – under the proposals.
Patients will be able to look up the waiting times at their local hospital compared with those at ‘any hospital in the country’ and choose where to book their treatment, it said.
Travel and accommodation could be paid for patients who choose to travel for treatment, including for a companion, it added.
The health secretary told The Times: ‘The NHS constitution says already that you as a patient have the right to ask for an alternative provider for your treatment. [But] in practice, no one really gets that right. Even if an individual wanted to exercise that right at the moment, it’s just left up to them to do all the homework and they’re not really supported in that decision.
‘For me, that’s not acceptable. I want to enshrine that right so that every patient of the NHS, once they’ve been diagnosed and they need a certain treatment, they are given options, they have a choice.’
He added that while only the ‘longest waiters’ will be eligible for the scheme at first, it will be ‘gradually’ offered to ‘more and more people’, with plans to make it available on the NHS App.
The service will ‘help significantly with the elective backlog’ and will contribute towards Mr Javid’s ambition to ‘eliminate the two-year waiting list by June’, according to The Times.
The newspaper added that Mr Javid will set out these and further plans for tackling the NHS backlog in a speech tomorrow, including his ‘desire to move towards academy-style hospitals’.