In for the long haul: Why enabling patients to ‘wait well’ should be a priority on the NHS’ road to recovery

Imagine a patient eagerly awaiting their long-anticipated appointment with a specialist, consumed by anxiety and uncertainty. Time seems to stand still as they wait for weeks, or even months, in anticipation. The enduring struggle of patients waiting for healthcare services is a deeply rooted issue within the NHS.

However, through strategic implementation of technology, forward-thinking leaders have the power to transform this waiting experience. With the right tools, NHS organisations can aid in alleviating patients’ anxiety, improve their health conditions and ultimately enhance their overall waiting experience.

Patient wait times: The current state of affairs

Before delving into potential solutions, it is essential to understand the gravity of the issue. The NHS faces an extensive backlog, with patients enduring prolonged wait times for their appointments. According to recent statistics from the NHS, 7.6 million patients are waiting to start treatment in England alone. This isn’t just putting strain on medical professionals, but also those bearing the administrative brunt of incoming patient enquiries – further compounding the issue.

The gap between a patient being referred for treatment and an appointment being scheduled is a stressful time for patients. This period of uncertainty results in a significant share of the calls received by NHS Trust contact centres. Meanwhile the backlog is proving detrimental to patients’ mental and physical health, exacerbating their existing conditions further and creating a vicious cycle that urgently needs breaking.

The role of technology in waiting well

The NHS waiting list isn’t going away anytime soon, but by leveraging innovative solutions, such as digital patient engagement portals, the NHS can help patients wait well and transform waiting from a burden to an opportunity. Digital solutions that allow patients to be engaged and informed throughout their wait, reduce anxiety and foster a sense of control.

By providing patients with access to relevant health information and resources during their wait, healthcare organisations can create imaginative pathways to empower patients to actively manage their own health, leading to improved outcomes. This approach not only enhances patient satisfaction but also helps healthcare organisations build a reputation as forward-thinking and patient-centric institutions.

Using low-code built applications, a technology that enables organisations to accelerate the development process, the NHS can streamline communication between healthcare providers and patients, providing real-time updates on wait times and appointment progress. By doing so, patients are offered that much-needed reassurance reducing the need to call in significantly.

Easing the strain

Addressing the issue of prolonged waiting times in the NHS requires a multi-faceted approach, with technology playing a crucial role. Through referral confirmations, timely updates on waiting lists and remote patient monitoring, anxiety can be alleviated. Meanwhile receiving personalised health tips, educational resources, and even access to virtual support groups can enable patients to actively participate in their healthcare journey. Improving the waiting experience and placing the power back in the hands of the patient to manage their condition will also have a positive knock-on effect by minimising unnecessary appointments. This means resources can be optimised and focused in areas that need it. For booking centres, agents will be freed up from time-consuming calls, to focus on coordinating appointments and ultimately tackling the backlog.

Optimising the patient experience

Whilst reducing the need for incoming calls should be a key priority for the NHS in its effort to help patients wait well, when calls are necessary the focus should be on optimising that call experience and driving greater efficiency. By incorporating systems that unify patient data, call centre agents can be equipped with all the information they need to respond effectively to incoming calls and questions. Having this information in one single, simple view not only provides a better experience for the patient, but means that the call is often shorter, and there is less need for additional follow-up, further alleviating the burden on contact centre staff.

By embracing technology as a catalyst for change, we can ensure that patients not only wait well but also experience compassionate care, even during the most challenging times. With the help of solutions such as low-code that enable the development of seamless workflows, NHS Trusts can provide patients with a more personalised and efficient healthcare experience. The focus now should be on creating a more patient-centric healthcare system that is accessible to all and helps achieve outstanding clinical outcomes. Only through strategic technology adoption can we make this vision a reality.

By John Clarke, Head of Client Solutions – Health at Netcall


Join our audience of healthcare industry professionals

Join our audience of healthcare industry professionals