Thérèse Coffey sets out new plan for patients

New Health and Care Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has set out ‘Our plan for patients’ to build on the NHS winter plan and outline measures across “the priorities that matter most to patients”, including ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists.

The plan from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) begins with a note from Thérèse Coffey describing how it will “sit alongside the NHS Long Term Plan, the forthcoming workforce plan, and our plans to reform adult social care. It shows the concrete steps we are taking across several areas that matter to patients and people who draw on care and support, like creating more appointments in general practice, and getting more staff on the frontline.”

The plan is “the first step on an important journey” and commits to “using insights from data to deliver better services across the country”.

Here, we will take a look at the role of digital, data and technology in the plan for patients.

Informing and empowering patients

“We will inform and empower patients to play a full part in decision-making about their health and treatment, by publishing easy-to-use data and performance indicators about how their local NHS is performing,” the plan states. This will include waiting lists for elective care and general practice appointments.

“Transparent data not only empowers individuals, but also helps health and care staff learn from the high performers around them about how to improve the care they deliver to patients,” the plan continues. “We will also inform patients on alternative pathways for their own care and reducing the need to use the NHS at all.”

Digital in the ambulance service

One of the key areas highlighted for improvement is the ambulance service, with the plan noting that the whole urgent care pathway needs to be improved, including discharge, in order to help the services operate more effectively.

As part of the drive to improve ambulance response times, the plan describes how ambulance trusts will be facilitated to support each other during the busiest periods, which will include “rolling out a new digital intelligent routing platform and where necessary sharing call handling”.

This digital improvement sits alongside an aim to reduce the time lost to ambulance handover delays, and the planned exploration of a potential new ambulance auxiliary service.

Patient backlogs

“The pandemic placed unprecedented pressures in healthcare services,” the plan acknowledges. “This has led to delays in expected treatment. The waiting list for planned care stands at around 7 million and we expect will increase as more patients come forward for diagnosis and treatment.”

Following the February 2022 delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care, the plan notes how billions in funding has been put towards recovering services, including a £5.9 billion investment in capital for new beds, equipment and technology. It sets out an ambition to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023, over 15 months by March 2024, and over a a year by March 2025.

Digital is to play a role in supporting patients to make informed choices, with an aim to “provide as much information as possible about their length of wait for treatment, making waiting lists by specialty and by provider more accessible.” In addition, “We will increase productivity and reduce the need for patients to repeatedly share information, by enabling clinicians and managers with high quality data platforms to help manage waiting lists and improve theatre use.”

The plan also highlights that DHSC will “support all trusts to put electronic records in place by 2025”.


A push for digitised social care records is included among the workstreams set to help out of hospitals and into social care.

The importance of freeing up time for carers to care rather than spending their time on IT and administrative work is emphasised. “Digitised social care records release about 20 minutes per care worker per shift,” the plan states. “Hundreds of providers have moved to digital since March 2022. We will support care providers to switch from paper to digital records and will test and scale technologies to support people to live fulfilling, independent lives for longer.”

A £500 million fund to support discharge from hospital into the community, a national recruitment campaign for carers and a plan to deliver ‘cap and means test’ reforms are also highlighted as key areas for work.


A main ambition in the plan is for patients who need an appointment with their GP practice to get one within two weeks, whilst patients with urgent needs should be seen on the same day.

Improving access is prioritised. “We will make it easier to get through to practices by telephone for appointments and advice. We are making an additional 31,000 phone lines available for GP practices. From January 2023, we will accelerate the delivery of high quality cloud-based telephone solutions.”

In addition, the plan shares: “We will make more time available for appointments by introducing digital tools and improving IT systems to ease administrative burdens. This includes automating appointment reminder messages, consultation booking and triage responses.”

Patients are to have more information available, so that they can choose the right practice for them. From November 2022, the plan notes an ambition to publish “easy-to-use data showing exactly how many appointments each practice in England is delivering and how long people wait between booking an appointment and receiving one.”

Enabling delivery

To achieve the priorities laid out in the plan, DHSC state that “we need a national endeavour, recognising the impact of the pandemic and the desire of many people to make a difference.”

A number of commitments are laid out which are vital to achieving the plan’s ambitions; “supporting the NHS and social care to make the most of digital technology” is one of them, along with supporting new models of cares and roles, expanding recruitment and incentivising staff retention.

Rounding up, the plan states: “We will design and deliver our long-term workforce plan. We will review our education and training requirements and will come forward with proposals to meet the changing needs and expectations of patients in the future.”

To read the plan in full, please click here.