Advice site for people awaiting surgery not a nurse substitute

Unions fear NHS’s My Planned Care website is seen as a replacement for perioperative care

Unions fear NHS’s My Planned Care website seen as a replacement for perioperative care delivered by experienced nurses and compromises care quality

Unions fear NHS’s My Planned Care website seen as a replacement for perioperative care delivered by experienced nurses
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A new website that will provide information and advice for patients waiting for surgery must not be seen as a substitute for support from qualified nurses, say unions and health experts.

The My Planned Care website, launched by NHS England last week, is part of the government’s plan to tackle a huge backlog in elective care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The website – which features data from 137 NHS trusts across England – allows patients to check average waiting times for different departments at their local hospital.

However, it will be expanded in coming months to include personalised advice and support to help patients prepare for surgery and recover, including advice on stopping smoking, diet and exercise.

Quality of care and community health services should not be compromised, says unions

The move has prompted fears the online offering could been seen as a replacement for perioperative care delivered by experienced nurses.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said targeting information to those who needed it was a sensible idea, but would not be a substitute for experienced staff.

‘It’s hard to see how the proposals so far will be any substitute for trained staff who provide proper pre-op care and community public health services,’ she said.

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis echoed the concerns, adding: ‘We know that there can be very real barriers to accessing care online or via your smartphone – such as cost, familiarity with the technology and the availability of high-speed broadband in rural areas – and ministers must put safeguards in place to ensure everyone has equal access. The quality of that care must not be compromised.’

Nearly 19,000 extra nurses needed to return to pre-pandemic waiting times, think tank predicts

The number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England has reached a record high of six million and is set to increase as more people come forward for care postponed during the pandemic.

Health think tank the Health Foundation has predicted nearly 19,000 extra nurses will be needed to get back to pre-pandemic waiting times.

Senior policy fellow at the think tank Tim Gardner said longstanding staff shortages will be the main factor limiting progress getting through the backlog.

A spokesperson for NHS England said the My Planned Care initiative was in its early stages, so it was too soon to say exactly how additional support would be provided.

The NHS’s elective care recovery plan also includes the creation of perioperative care coordination teams featuring specialist nurses.

The teams will devise plans for patients and can refer them to specialist or community-based support, but it is not yet clear how their work will dovetail with the website and other digital tools.

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