The NHS has launched a new online platform to help tackle the elective surgery backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
My Planned Care will enable patients and their carers to access information ahead of their planned appointment, operation or treatment through the touch of a button.
In this initial stage, around 5.5 million patients out of the six million on the waiting list will be able to search on the site to find the average waiting time at their local hospital for the specialist area they need treatment in.
The platform is expected to be expanded in the coming months to include personalised information and support for patients on the waiting list to help them stay well while they wait, including advice on how to best manage symptoms.
Future developments to the service will also include advice on stopping smoking as well as on diet and exercise, to help patients get ready for surgery and ensure they recover as quickly as possible.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director at NHS England, said: “Treating more than 600,000 Covid patients in hospital over the last two years has inevitably had an impact on routine care and staff are doing everything they can to reduce the backlogs that have inevitably built up.
“We know that it can be frustrating for patients who are waiting and so this online site will help to give patients and their families crucial information about how long they might have to wait, helping them feel more informed about their treatment plan.
“And, as we have always said throughout the pandemic, it is vitally important that anybody who has health concerns continues to come forward, so that the NHS can help you get the care you need.”
NHS staff will be encouraged to consider how they can draw on social prescribing link workers and care co-ordinators to support patients while they are waiting for care. Targeted packages of support will be deployed to help those patients waiting for procedures with the longest wait or the greatest need.
Data from 137 NHS Trusts across England will be available on the site which will be hosted by nhs.uk.
The launch of My Planned Care, which was first announced earlier this year, is part of a wider plan to address the Covid backlog of elective care.
As well as the platform, the NHS is also rolling out more than 100 community diagnostic centres and additional surgical hubs to add to the network of 122 already operating across the country, thanks to billions of pounds of extra investment.
Health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “This first of its kind platform will give millions of patients more certainty over their own care no matter who they are or where they live.
“Alongside new surgical hubs to ramp up operations and Community Diagnostic Centres to provide faster diagnoses closer to home, the My Planned Care platform will help us put patients in control. The NHS is here for you and we want people to come forward, with this site offering crucial advice ahead of appointments and operations.
“It’s part of our plan to tackle the Covid backlog, backed by record investment to deliver 9 million more treatments, scans and operations by 2024.”