The NHS is to ensure all hospital trusts will offer patients a booked appointment system under the latest plans announced by the government. Experts believe the move will go some way to help reduce waiting lists.
Initially, by March next year, every acute hospital trust in England will be offering booked appointments to at least some patients.
By March 2002, 43 hospitals will be able to offer every day surgery patient a booked appointment.
Booked appointments can reduce the time patients have to wait. For example, at Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals NHS Trust, partial booking in outpatients led to the rheumatology clinic seeing all patients within 13 weeks. Previously, 52 per cent had been seen within 13 weeks.
This year’s programme is backed by £40m, earmarked from NHS resources.
Health Secretary Alan Milburn said: “Millions of patients will benefit from the convenience of having their appointment or their operation when it fits their family, caring, working or holiday needs.
“This is the way the whole NHS has to change – meeting the needs of patients, not asking the patients to meet the needs of the NHS.
“Introducing booked admissions encourages hospitals to re-organise the way they work and in particular brings down waiting times. In turn, operating theatres and staff can be used more efficiently and the number of patients missing their appointments usually falls sharply when booked admissions are introduced.”