Patients would be given more choice around their treatment options including choosing alternative providers if their operations are delayed, under plans due to be announced by the Health Secretary.
Sajid Javid has said while his proposals would be beneficial for patients, they could also “significantly” help to tackle the backlog in planned care.
Further details are expected to be set out when Mr Javid gives a speech on Tuesday.
The Sunday Times reported that patients referred for hospital care will have the chance to look online at the waiting time for their local hospital, and compare that with times at any hospital in the country, including private ones.
Mr Javid told the newspaper: “The NHS constitution already says that you as a patient have the right to ask for an alternative provider for your treatment.
“In practice no one really gets that right. It’s not really focused on and even if an individual wanted to exercise that right at the moment it’s just left up to them to do all the homework and they’re not really supported in that decision.”
He said this is “not acceptable”, adding that he wants to “enshrine that right” so that patients are “given options, they have a choice”.
The Health Secretary added: “It could be that they stick with their local provider, it could be maybe another NHS provider. And if it is another NHS provider, let’s say they have to travel for that, they should be supported in their travel costs, maybe accommodation costs, including maybe for someone to go with them to support them.
“Or it could be an independent provider in the independent sector. The point is that people should have that choice and it should be made easy for them to exercise that right.”
On how it will help with the backlog, he said that with more providers involved in trying to address lengthy waiting lists “you will get through the backlog quicker than otherwise”.
Data published last month by NHS England showed a record 6.1 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Mr Javid’s plan is also expected to include reference to a possible move towards academy-style hospitals to improve performance across the NHS, The Sunday Times reported.
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