Patients will soon be able to use the NHS app to opt for private hospital treatment in an effort to cut waiting times, according to a report.
The NHS waiting list for routine treatment stands at more than seven million and is predicted to keep rising until next spring.
Both of the main political parties are relying on more people choosing to pay for private care to bring down waiting times and free up the NHS.
A report in The Times said that only 28 NHS hospitals currently allow patients to manage appointments via the app, although this is expected to be expanded, which is when the private hospital option will be offered for the first time.
A Whitehall source cited by the newspaper said: “There is definitely scope for that.
“The NHS app is increasingly well-used, there is already some functionality where patients can directly book, and we are looking to modernise those booking capabilities and update the options in the app.”
The number of diagnostic centres offering checks for cancer and other conditions will also be expanded by adding facilities run by the private sector – from the current 106 to about 190.
Only 63.5% of patients given a cancer diagnosis begin treatment within two months of a referral for tests, against a target of 85% that has not been hit for nine years.
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A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Cutting waiting lists is one of the government’s top five priorities with the NHS app playing a vital role in giving patients greater control over their own care and supporting elective care recovery.
“We have already started to implement the Elective Recovery Taskforce’s work and a full plan will be published soon, outlining how we can go even further to unlock the independent sector to get patients treated more quickly and reduce waiting lists.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to confirm the plans in the coming weeks, The Times said.