Capacity Alert system to support GP hospital referrals

Successful trials of Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) Capacity Alert system show improved service access

A pilot system – which could help to reduce hospital waiting times and offer patients a clearer choice of treatment – is set to be implemented across England following a successful NHS trial.

The Capacity Alert system – commissioned by NHS England – was developed by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) to ease pressure on services by making it easier for GPs to understand the waiting times at hospitals for their patients thus, reducing hospital waiting times.

The system is simple; a red light denotes hospitals with longer waiting times on the GP referral system, while a green light tells GPs that a hospital hasavailable capacity. Able to assess this immediately, doctors can ensure that patients have quicker access to treatment.

 

Trials in North East and South West London have proved promising; according to NHS England, red lights reduced referrals to overbooked hospitals by 40%, while green lights increased referrals to hospitals with capacity by 15% this winter.

Following this success, BIT is now supporting the roll-out of the Capacity Alert system across the NHS in England. A series of masterclasses and workshops will support the rollout of the scheme and a ‘how-to’ guide will be produced for GPs and local NHS bodies.

 

Matthew Swindells, NHS England director for Operations and Information, said: “This system makes it even easier for GPs and patients to understand hospital waiting times which will, in turn, see benefits for patients and hospitals.

“The Capacity Alert system is a good example of how smarter working and relatively simple innovations can lead to another big improvement in NHS services.”

 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “Sometimes the most simple-sounding ideas are the most effective, and this scheme appears to be a relatively straightforward way of improving the interface between primary and secondary care, in order to make our patients’ journey through the NHS as seamless as possible. We look forward to seeing how this idea translates to other areas of the country in the best interests of patients and the wider NHS.”

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