Less than half of the public know they can choose where they receive their NHS treatment, including in the independent sector, according to the Independent Healthcare Providers Network.
The organisation’s policy director David Furness urged the NHS to make a big drive to ensure the public are given all the information so they can make the best decisions about their care.
Figures last month showed yet another record NHS waiting list of over 6.1m.
Now it was vital that Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s commitment to give patients more choice and control of their care was translated into concrete action to improve access to treatment, said Mr Furness.
‘Tackling the elective backlog is the public’s number-one priority for the NHS and people will now want to see the Government delivering on its promises and doing all it can to put power in the hands of patients and stop waiting lists getting out of control.’
Mr Tim Mitchell
Meanwhile the Royal College of Surgeons of England has urged for a national effort to level up access to surgery, as figures show nearly 24,000 patients wait two years or more for consultant-led hospital treatment.
The Government asked the NHS to contact every patient who has waited two years or more by the end of March, to offer them a choice of an independent provider or a different hospital they could travel to.
College vice-president and consultant ENT surgeon Mr Tim Mitchell said: ‘If someone is left waiting years for a planned hip or knee operation, for example, it’s not surprising they will now be struggling to walk or work.
‘We must find a way to get these patients treated, even if it means paying for them to travel to a part of the country that’s less afflicted or paying for treatment in the independent sector.’
But he warned that success depended on sorting the long-standing issue of staff vacancies and improved workforce planning.