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Traffic light system for GP referrals to be implemented after ‘promising’ pilot

primary care decline

A traffic light system is set to be rolled out across England, which will allow GPs to offer patients quicker routes to treatments by indicating hospital capacity.

Green and red lights will appear next to hospitals in the GP referral system, indicating how long the waiting list of a hospital is, with red being overbooked and green showing capacity to take on patients.

Pilot studies of the update have shown ‘promising’ results, according to NHS England.

It reported that across two London trials, red lights reduced referrals to overbooked hospitals by nearly 40% and green lights increased referrals to hospitals with capacity by 14%.

NHS England said that the system could help reduce hospital waiting times, while offering patients a clearer choice of treatment, and confirmed it is ‘set to be rolled out across the country’.

NHS England director for operations and information Matthew Swindells said: ‘This system makes it even easier for GPs and patients to understand hospital waiting times which will in turn see benefits for patients and hospitals.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Sometimes the most simple-sounding ideas are the most effective, and this scheme appears to be a relatively straightforward way of improving the interface between primary and secondary care, in order to make our patients’ journey through the NHS as seamless as possible.’

The Behavioural Insights Team, commissioned by NHS England to create the alert, has confirmed that they will produce a how-to-guide for GPs and hold a series of masterclasses and workshops across the country.