Patients will be told the Care Quality Commission rating and waiting times for their local hospitals when making appointments through a new electronic booking system to encourage ‘truly informed’ patient choice, the health secretary has said.

  • Patients to be told hospital’s CQC ratings to make “truly informed” choice
  • Patients will also see waiting times for treatment on new e-referrals system
  • Concern the move could put more pressure on high performing hospitals

In a speech at the King’s Fund today, Jeremy Hunt said patients would for the “first time” be able to make a “truly informed choice about which local service is best for them”.

Mr Hunt said that from next year “GPs will be asked to tell patients not just which hospitals they can be referred to, but the relevant CQC rating and waiting time as well”.

However, HSJ understands GPs will not be asked to pass this information on to patients. Instead, it will be included in the new e-referrals system to replace Choose and Book.

Mr Hunt added: “Because those ratings now include patient experience, safety and quality of care, patients will for the first time be able to make a truly informed choice about which local service is best for them.”

However, there is concern that such a move could place more pressure on high performing hospitals that are already struggling to cope with the increased number of referrals coming through their doors, because patients may seek treatment at hospitals that have high CQC ratings.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said a number of trusts have found there is “tension” between “unrestrained patient choice and their capacity to meet rapidly changing patient flows”.

Chris Hopson

Even highly rated providers have difficulty meeting competing demands, Chris Hopson said

He added: “Even providers with the highest quality ratings are finding it incredibly difficult to meet the competing demands of increasing elective activity and spiralling emergency work, and we need an honest and realistic debate about how we balance these tensions.

“If we do not give providers the resources they need then they will be punished for their success in delivering high quality services rather than rewarded. It can’t make sense for providers to be overwhelmed and unable to provide the right quality of care,” he added.

Last year University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust and Salford Royal FT imposed out of area referral restrictions because of increasing demand on their services. Both trusts received positive ratings from the CQC.

NHS England introduced a clause to the national standard contract that told trusts to accept every referral.

However, both University Hospitals Birmingham and Salford Royal said they would continue to restrict referrals.

In March, chief executive of Salford Royal, Sir David Dalton, said:  “I remain of the view that it is not acceptable for trusts to maintain open access to patients when they have no capacity to treat them and when they have undertaken all of their contracted activity.”

HSJ understands the Department of Health does not expect to see a big increase in activity as a result of this new measure and so no additional support will be given to providers.