Prof Kamila Hawthorne, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, called on the NHS to set up an Amazon-style tracking system that would let patients monitor when they would be seen.
In an interview with the Guardian, she said: “Something like the Amazon system would be amazing. In an ideal world, the NHS would have a system that would let people track where they are on the waiting list.”
Hawthorne, who represents Britain’s 50,000 family doctors, voiced serious concern about the record delays for care and the uncertainty for patients about when they would finally be seen.
She said these factors were leaving people feeling “helpless and forgotten”.
“Patients getting sicker while they are on the waiting list is something GPs see and worry about, because the risk to the patient is so much greater. It’s inevitable that some people stuck will get sicker, because that’s the nature of illness,” Hawthorne said.
“It could be someone awaiting a hip or knee replacement. They come and see you and say, ‘it’s been three months and I’ve heard nothing’. Often the waiting times for orthopaedics can be a year or two, so you know it’s going to take ages. Then they’ll tell you that their toilet is upstairs and in order to get up there they’re having to crawl. Or it could be that their hip or knee pain is coming to the point where they can’t sleep at night. That’s the kind of thing we hear.”
Women with persistent heavy bleeding that has not responded to treatment are a particular worry when they have to wait a long time for their condition to be investigated, because the blood loss could be a sign of gynaecological cancer, she said.
“The waiting list [for a test] will be eight to 12 months, and in the old days, so to speak, it would have been eight weeks. The risk that’s being carried is so much greater because of that wait time.”
Hawthorn called on the NHS to set up a tracker system that would reassure patients who are “anxious, worried and frustrated” about when they will finally be seen and help them to negotiate “the jungle of the NHS”.
In addition, it would mean they would no longer need to ask their GP to ring the hospital to find out when their appointment will happen, thus freeing up more appointment slots.
The British Heart Foundation said it shared Hawthorne’s concerns, and there was “no doubt that some heart patients are getting sicker while facing extreme waits for care”, with some dying as a result. It identified long waits for tests, surgery and other treatment as major reasons.
An NHS England spokesperson did not respond directly to Hawthorne’s remarks but said: “NHS staff have made significant progress in bringing down the longest waits built up during the pandemic, with waits of over 18 months down by more than four-fifths on their peak, over 24m vital tests and checks delivered in the last year, and record numbers of patients starting treatment for cancer.”
Patients could already check waiting times at their local hospital by using the My Planned Care website, they added.
(Source: The Guardian)