Digital matching tool to allow NHS staff to find available hospital appointments

Online platform for scheduling treatment will be extended to cover cancer consultations, outpatient appointments and diagnostic checks, in a move that government hopes will help cut waiting times for patients

The NHS has unveiled a digital tool to enable staff to find available surgery and consultation appointments at hospitals around the country.

The “online matching platform” can be used to find and schedule appointments for patients currently on a treatment waiting list who have indicated they would be willing to travel beyond their local area. Appointments at both NHS facilities and private healthcare providers will be shown.

Since the start of the year, the service has been available for treatments requiring a full hospital admission; this has now been extended to include diagnostic checks, cancer treatment and consultations, and other outpatient appointments.


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The health service claimed that the technology is primarily intended to benefit those who have been waiting the longest and support a target to “virtually eliminate 65-week waits by April 2024”.

In cases where staff find more than hospital with available appointments, patients will be offered a choice.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Despite significant pressure on services, NHS staff have already made incredible progress against our elective recovery plan, and this smart new tool will help us to continue to reduce long waits for patients. It shows, once again, the benefits of having a national health service – NHS staff can now work even more closely with other hospitals across the country to identify capacity and conveniently match patients to available treatment and appointment slots. 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.”

Since the matching tool was launched in January, it has been used to offer a collective total of 1,700 appointments that might otherwise have required a longer wait. The NHS indicated that “gynaecology, colorectal and trauma and orthopaedics are the top three specialties to have benefited” from the system.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “We are using all tools at our disposal to bring down waiting lists – one of the government’s top five priorities – while this platform will also help us to drive better collaboration across the NHS and the independent sector to treat patients more quickly.”

Sam Trendall

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