UK health secretary Patricia Hewitt has announced a package of measures to help improve patient choice, including a new flagship ‘super website’ named NHS Choices and more flexible options for patients undergoing certain types of surgery.
The move aims to help UK National Health Service (NHS) patients in even the most disadvantaged communities make choices about their healthcare and allow them to shape services around their needs and experience.
The new website will be key to this initiative, as will enabling patients needing orthopedic and hip replacement treatments a choice between any hospital provider in the country.
A pilot scheme for the new website has been launched in libraries in 10 areas across the UK. This allows members of the public to visit their local library and have trained librarians support them as they choose and book hospital appointments online.
Patients will soon be able to choose, with the click of a button, where they want to have their treatment. Our new choice website will allow the public and clinicians to access a range of information through one super site that will act as a gateway to navigate NHS services, said Ms Hewitt, at a visit to a library pilot in Wood Green, London.
Patients needing a hospital appointment should have the right to pick and choose their time, date and place. To make this happen, we need to invest in facilities to help patients take control. Using public libraries and the internet is an ideal way to support patients, families and carers with information.
NHS Choices will fully go live this summer. It will include information such as searchable comprehensive directories on, for example, hospitals, GPs and care homes; comparative data on hospital waiting times, cleanliness and readmission rates; and access to a vast library of approved medical literature, previously only available to clinicians.
It will also provide multimedia guides on common procedures, detailed guides on living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, and a facility for patients to directly comment and give feedback on particular hospitals.
Ms Hewitt also announced that, from this summer – one year earlier than expected – patients needing elective treatment for hip replacements and orthopedic surgery will be able to choose any treatment center from across the country if they meet NHS standards and costs. Currently, all patients requiring any routine surgery can only choose from four local hospitals, 34 foundation trusts and 15 independent sector providers.