NHS patients face longer journeys for treatment in ‘radical idea’ to slash backlog

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NHS Providers boss Chris Hopson said people could be sent to neighbouring hospitals but stressed it would not mean travelling from “Durham to Dunstable”. He also wants to cut the number of outpatient appointments following surgery.

Mr Hopson said: “There is a moral obligation on trusts and their leaders to make sure that they do everything they can, no stone unturned, to get through those care backlogs.

“What we’re working on at the moment is a really comprehensive plan to get through those backlogs as fast as possible.

“And some of it will be all the traditional things that we do, which is: we will expand temporary capacity; we will ensure that we use overtime as much as possible; we will ensure that we use the capacity that sits in the independent sector.

“But I think we recognise we need to go further and that’s why, some of those radical ideas, we are considering and looking at them.”

He said it would not involve travel to other regions, adding: “So, what I think will happen is that, by getting trusts to work together more effectively ‑ as they’ve been doing over the last 18 months ‑ you can see people being asked to be moved, you know, relatively short distances.” 

On cutting outpatient appointments, Mr Hopson told Times Radio yesterday: “Our clinicians manage clinical risk and nobody is going, basically, to suggest to a patient who might have a risk, ‘Oh, no, we don’t need to see you, off you go’ and ‘Actually, we’ll only see you if it turns into an emergency’.

“That is absolutely not what’s going to happen. 

“The way the outpatient system tends to work in lots of specialities is that we do say to people ‘Come back in three [months], come back in six, come back in nine, come back in 12’, and, actually, you won’t need all of those four appointments in many cases.

“And moving towards a system where you can give patients the opportunity to say, ‘Actually, I’ll only do the six, but if I’ve got a problem at the three in the nine-month period, I know I can get hold of you.’

“Then that will free up a lot more capacity for those consultants to actually do elective surgery and backlog recovery.

“The implication that we’re suddenly just going to say to everybody: ‘We don’t want to see you any more’ ‑ absolutely not.

“It will be risk-based, as it always is, and that’s what our clinicians are brilliant and they’re really good at, identifying when they need to ask people to come back.”

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