Expansion of NHS online matching platform aims to connect more patients with available surgery slots

NHS England has announced an expansion to its online ‘matching’ platform to include cancer, diagnostic checks and outpatient appointments. The platform allows staff to “view and add available surgery slots in hospitals across the country, including independent sector capacity” as part of efforts to allocate patients, and has since January been used to enable 1,700 offers of support.

Details of patients currently on a waiting list who are willing to travel for treatment can be uploaded by clinical teams, allowing other NHS and independent sector providers to log on and ‘match’ patients with the relevant treatment, NHS England notes. The platform includes patient information as a means to help organisations decide whether or not they can take on a particular case, including data ranging from the severity of the illness, the patient’s BMI, how far they are willing to travel and how long they have been waiting to receive treatment.

The platform aims to support patient choice where possible; if more than one provider makes an offer of treatment, the patient can examine the options can make a decision based on factors such as distance.

NHSE shares that since the launch in January, the platform has enabled 1,700 offers of support to be made. Initially used for patients requiring hospital admission, it is now set to expand to other areas such as cancer, diagnostic checks and outpatient appointments.

So far, the top three specialties to have used this digital aid have been gynaecology, colorectal and trauma and orthopaedics, the announcement states.

NHSE says that the platform is a “key tool” in supporting the system to tackle the backlogs built up by the pandemic, and adds that the “next ambition” is to “virtually eliminate 65 week waits by April 2024”.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard describes the platform as a “smart new tool” which will assist the NHS in its efforts to bring down long waits for patients, adding: “Technology is already transforming the way we work in the NHS and we will continue to embrace the latest innovations, like this one, to deliver the best possible for care for patients.”

Last year, we looked at the launch of the NHS My Planned Care platform which was designed to provide patients with the latest waiting times for hospitals appointments, treatments and procedures. The platform has since expanded to contain data from 137 NHS trusts across England, including personalised information and support for those on waiting lists.

In related news around healthcare wait lists, the Northern Ireland Department of Health announced an initiative to centralise and improve information available to patients, expected to expand over time to provide the latest waiting time information for procedures, treatment and diagnostics.