Up to 20% of calls to GP practices ‘could be resolved’ through a new feature on the NHS App showing patients their waiting times for hospital treatment, NHS England has said.
From tomorrow, the NHS App will show patients in England the average waiting time to patients (aged 16 over) who are referred into a speciality at NHS acute trusts. Patients will see that they are on a waiting list and the estimated month their first hospital treatment will take place.
The commissioner said that this will help patients ‘understand how long they are likely to wait’ and ‘manage the number of calls and visits’ into GP practices.
‘With NHS England estimating that up to 20% of calls to GP practices could be resolved through the features for hospital appointments on the NHS App, we expect this new waiting times feature to free up more resources for patient care,’ it said in a briefing to practices.
The rollout of this functionality follows a trial period at Kingston Hospital, where staff worked with NHS England to monitor progress across the trust’s telephony system, PALS service and local GPs.
NHS England said that ‘no increase’ in calls to GP practices was reported during the trial but it has not answered a query put to them by our sister publication Pulse on whether the calls decreased during the trial.
Currently, patients can see some information about their hospital referral via the app – it shows their first appointment and the average waiting time to start treatment. However, the information becomes unavailable as a patient continues their care journey, NHS England said.
Now, the new waiting times feature will continue to present the patient information stating they are on a waiting list at their provider and the estimated waiting time for treatment.
The app will use existing published waiting list data on specialties provided by trusts and in the public domain. Since data is updated weekly, it may mean the patient’s expected treatment date, based on average waiting times, may also move.
During the briefing, NHS England explained: ‘We expect this new feature to improve patient experience by better informing patients about their secondary care pathway.
‘They will now know they are “in the system” and on a waiting list, and the estimated month for treatment.
‘It could also help alleviate queries that would normally be directed to trusts and GP practices, potentially reducing call volumes from patients seeking an update.’
Another new NHS App functionality will also go live on 30 January to allow patients to generate a prescription barcode to collect their medicines from any pharmacy.
NHS England is launching a campaign to raise awareness of new functionalities of the NHS App and what it can be used for, which will target all adults over 50 and women aged 18 to 50.
A version of this article first appeared on our sister publication Pulse