NHS backlog: patients to be offered ‘virtual’ hospital appointments to help reduce waiting lists

The NHS backlog now stands at a record 6.6 million treatment appointments

<p>The NHS backlog now stands at a record 6.6 million treatment appointments</p>

The NHS backlog now stands at a record 6.6 million treatment appointments

NHSpatients are set to be offered “virtual” hospital appointments as part of new plans to clear NHS backlogs.

Sir Jim Mackey, NHS England elective adviser, said virtual appointments are part of reforms that would also place the burden on patients to flag up concerns after treatment.

The NHS backlog now stands at a record 6.6 million treatment appointments

NHS trusts will be paired up so that patients facing long waits for a slot at their local hospital can be offered a video call with a doctor at another trust.

Sir Jim said: “We will be pairing up organisations so that [hospitals] with capacity can help those with the biggest challenges from a virtual outpatient perspective.”

He added: “We’re going to be testing the concept… We need to work through how all the wiring and plumbing needs to work.

“For example, what happens if the patient needs a diagnosis locally, having seen a clinician virtually in another part of the country?

“It would be great also to try and stimulate more of a consumer drive on this - encouraging patients to ask about virtual outpatients when the waits locally may be too long, so they don’t just think they have to go to their local hospital.

“I think this could really help shift the model if we can get it right.”

Sir Jim also told the Health Service Journal that he wanted to “invert the model” to stop default use of follow-up appointments after treatment.

Instead, patients will be told of any symptoms to look out for and asked to contact medical teams if they had concerns.

But Dennis Reed, from campaign group for the over-60s Silver Voices, told The Mirror: “I think it’s extremely dangerous to try to palm people off with virtual appointments.

“These are conditions where you need to see a specialist face-to-face, you need ‘hands on’ medicine to examine the physical problem.

“These patients have already seen a GP who made the referral, another consultation over the phone or video is just putting off the help they need.”