Hospitals should keep GPs better informed of elective waits to help them support patients on waiting lists, NHS England has said.
Speaking at the King’s Fund annual conference, NHS England director of insight and data platform Ayub Bhayat said that there is a ‘huge role for GPs’ in tackling the elective recovery backlog.
He said: ‘GPs are the front line to the NHS and they see so many patients every day and some of the patients that they have registered on their list will be waiting for elective surgery in hospitals.
‘What we need to do from a data perspective is improve the flow of information into primary care on a more regularised basis [so] that they have access to the information they need to inform their patients when they come to them concerned – “why have I not been treated, why have I not been called?” – while we work to put that same information into the hands of patients directly.’
Mr Bhayat suggested that trusts should share information with primary care about what number their patients are on the waiting list and how quickly they might be seen, so they can ‘reassure patients that they are a priority and we are about to treat them’.
Another key area is how GPs can be helped to support patients to ‘wait well, wait better [and] stay healthy as far as possible while they’re waiting for their surgery or procedures’, he said.
He told delegates last week: ‘It’s quite important that we equip them with the right information – the communication channel isn’t just between the hospital and the patient, it’s also between the hospital and primary care to make sure that primary care is aware.’
Mr Bhayat added that there is a ‘bigger role for primary care to play’ around ‘how they could support recovery at large’.
But when asked to expand on specific practical steps they can take, he said NHS England would set out more ‘in due course’.
The health secretary promised the Government would publish its plan on how to tackle the elective care backlog by the end of November, but it is yet to materialise.
The report, which focused on elective and cancer care, noted that GPs ‘often have to offer additional support to patients facing long waits’ which places ‘further strain on the NHS’.
The elective care waiting list could reach 12 million by March 2025, the report also warned.
In June, NHS England said GPs and hospitals must ‘jointly manage’ patients stuck in the backlog of care caused by the Covid pandemic.
Meanwhile, the England LMCs conference voted last week for a ban on hospitals making ‘advice and guidance’ mandatory as part of their referral management procedures.