Worried about waiting lists?

Published: 13th May 2020
The NHS is going to have to deal with the spike in demand as a knock-on from the pandemic. This article considers an NHS tool that is already being used which could reduce waiting lists by half.

We recently wrote about the spike in demand the NHS is going to see as a consequence of the pandemic. For non-urgent care this is going to be driven by:

  • demand for services that was delayed throughout the pandemic as patients avoided hospital; and
  • clinicians taking holiday that they could not take during March, April and May.

A report in the Sunday Times stated that waiting lists, that were 4.4 million in February, could be over 7 million by September. The NHS will have jumped out of the COVID fire but will remain in the frying pan! Even ignoring the possibility of a second wave of COVID, the NHS looks like it will be more behind than it has ever been.

Some of the solutions to this already exist in new ways of working. Case-in-point: the rapid increase in the NHS RAS function. RAS, which stands for Referral Assessment Service, allows users of the NHS e-Referral Service to review referrals before a patient has been booked in at hospital. It allows for clinicians at the hospital to:

  • assess the Clinical Referral Information from the GP/referrer without the need for an appointment being booked
  • decide on the most appropriate onward clinical pathway
  • return the triage request to the original referrer with advice, if an onward referral isn’t needed

One of our customers recently shared with us that their RAS data showed:

  •  25% of referrals being returned to GPs with advice to support them managing the patient in the community
  •  A further 25% – 33% of referrals being sent for diagnostics or a more suitable clinic, rather than being seen in outpatients

To apply this data to the waiting list numbers above, 3.5 million of September’s projected waiting list could theoretically be dealt with by the RAS, leaving those that need to be seen in hospital on the waiting list. The benefits to patient care could be huge, as sick patients are dealt with more quickly and non-urgent problems are not allowed through sheer passage of time to develop into urgent problems. RAS is big, good news.

Good news too for those who would like support with resource for their RAS – our National Consultant Network of NHS consultants can now be used to review your RAS cases. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.


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