News, Primary Care News, Secondary Care

Patients get the green light for smarter choices after latest GP pilot

A pilot system is now making it easier for GPs to understand the waiting times at hospitals for their patients.

The e-traffic light system could help reduce hospital waiting times while offering patients a clearer choice of treatment and is set to be rolled out across the country after a successful NHS trial.

A tweak to the GP referral system sees a red light appear against a hospital with longer waiting times while a green light shows those with spare capacity, meaning doctors can offer patients potentially quicker routes to treatment and help them make more informed choices.

Results from two London trials have been promising – red lights reduced referrals to overbooked hospitals by nearly 40 per cent, while green lights increased referrals to hospitals with available capacity by 14 per cent this winter.

The Capacity Alert system was developed after NHS England commissioned the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) to come up with ways of helping hospital trusts ease pressure on services.

Following the success of the trials in North East and South West London, BIT is now supporting the roll-out of the Capacity Alert system across the NHS in England.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England Director for Operations and Information, 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.

“The Capacity Alert system is a good example of how smarter working and relatively simple innovations can lead to another big improvement in NHS services.”

The Behavioural Insights Team are helping NHS England roll out the scheme by holding a series of masterclasses and workshops across the country, as well as producing a how-to guide for GPs and local NHS bodies.

Hannah Burd, Senior Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: “It’s in all our interests that patients and GPs have the most up to date information about their options when deciding where to go for care. This simple and cheap intervention supports these conversations and helps the referrals system to run more efficiently.”

Dr Michael Hallsworth, Director of Health and Tax at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: “Small nudges can lead to big changes. This is just the latest example of how behavioural insights combined with robust testing and analysis can be used to improve our public services.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, 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. We look forward to seeing how this idea translates to other areas of the country in the best interests of patients and the wider NHS.”