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RESPONSE TO ANNOUNCEMENT ON ACTION TEAMS ON OUTPATIENTS

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Action teams to help NHS organisations with the worst outpatient waiting lists are to be welcomed, said the NHS Con...
Action teams to help NHS organisations with the worst outpatient waiting lists are to be welcomed, said the NHS Confederation - see LGCnet 'ACTION TEAM TO GO INTO HOSPITALS FAILING ON WAITING TIMES'. NHS management is pleased ministers have recognised that solving these problems involves finding complex solutions, and providing support is more effective than brandishing 'sticks.' Much of the improvement heralded in the National Plan will only be achieved through changing systems at a local level and this requires a sophisticated approach.

Nigel Edwards, policy director at the NHS Confederation said: 'The reasons for increases in outpatient referrals are complex, so this new approach of providing support to NHS trusts through the shadow Modernisation Agency is to be welcomed. There will be different reasons for the increases in outpatients in different trusts. For example, some have had significant increases in referrals in this period. The National Patients Access Team (NPAT) can provide a tailored service - it has already provided an excellent resource for many trusts. Indeed at least one of the trusts named today has already invited in NPAT to look at their waiting issues. The trick will be fostering this culture where needing help is not something to be ashamed about.'

The National Plan is excellent for addressing capacity problems in the NHS. However NHS management would also like to see more attention given to what is termed demand management to improve the waiting problem in the NHS. Mr Edwards said: 'Demand management approaches ensure access to care according to need in a systematic way and could make a huge contribution to reducing unacceptable variations across the country. The National Plan contains some of the many of the right approaches but the total picture is missing - it will need more emphasis.'

Demand management can be used successfully within primary care and between primary and secondary care to improve practice, reduce unnecessary delay to treatment and identify management strategies for patients. It consists of a variety of techniques that influence choice and behaviour of GPs and clinicians such as: prioritisation systems, evidence-based protocols, utilisation review and audit, support roles such as referral advisers or pharmaceutical advisers, and provision of patient information including self care.
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