Switching to a shorter waiting list
If you want to make 2019 the year you receive the treatment you need, you will want to know how to work with the system to ensure you do not need to wait any longer than is necessary.
Late last year an investigation by the BBC found that 20% of NHS trusts had missed all their waiting time targets. NHS Improvement data also confirmed that the number of patients who have waited a year or more for elective treatment has increased by 75 per cent year-on-year.
The NHS Constitution sets our rights for patients, public and staff, and within it are two little-publicised rights for patients – that we can choose where we are treated, and, if we have been told that we must wait for longer than 18 weeks for our treatment, we can asked to be transferred to a shorter waiting list at another care provider – including to Southampton NHS Treatment Centre.
NHS England offers guidance to patients about swapping to a shorter waiting list if you have been told that would will have to wait for treatment for more than 18 weeks:
What choices do I have?
If you need to see a consultant you can ask to be referred to a different hospital if:
• you have to wait more than 18 weeks before starting treatment for a physical or mental health condition, if your treatment is not urgent
• you have to wait more than two weeks before seeing a specialist for suspected cancer
Your CCG (or NHS England, if you have been referred to a consultant-led, specialised service) must take all reasonable steps to ensure that you are offered an appointment at a suitable alternative organisation that can start your treatment earlier than if you were to continue to wait for treatment from the provider you chose when you were originally referred for treatment.
If there is more than one suitable alternative organisation, you must be offered a choice from all of them.
Are these legal rights?
Yes but there are circumstances in which you may not ask to be referred to a different hospital.
When may I not ask to be referred to a different hospital?
If you have to wait for more than 18 weeks for non-urgent treatment to start, you do not have a legal entitlement to ask to be referred to a different hospital if:
• the services you are using are not led by a consultant
• you choose to wait longer for your treatment to start
• delaying the start of your treatment is in your best interests. For example, if you need to lose weight or stop smoking or for other personal medical reasons
• you fail to attend appointments which you had chosen from a set of reasonable options
• you decide not to start, or you decline, treatment
• a doctor has decided that it is appropriate to monitor you for a time without treatment
• you cannot start treatment for reasons not related to the hospital, for example, you are a reservist posted abroad while waiting to start treatment
• your treatment is no longer necessary
• you are on the national transplant list
• you are using maternity services
Ask the Doctor
In a regular feature, we answer readers’ questions about their health.
Q: My knee is giving me a lot of pain. How do I know if it needs replacing?
A: Knee replacement surgery is a major, yet effective and common operation and over time becomes the only way to eradicate pain and improve quality of life.
Here are 5 signs which might mean you need to have your knee replaced and to discuss with your GP:
• 24-hour severe pain in the knee and the surrounding area, or elsewhere such as the hip or ankle, which impacts on your daily life even when you are resting
• Swelling and inflammation of the knee which no longer responds to medication
• Stiffness in the knee and immobility
• ‘Bowing’ of the leg
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs no longer provide relief from pain