NHS to roll out nudge theory digital traffic light system for hospital referrals

Written by Sam Trendall on 23 April 2018 in News
News

GPs across England to get tool to help direct patients to hospitals with sufficient capacity

GPs across England will be able to better manage hospital referrals with a digital traffic light system developed by the former Downing Street policy factory popularly known as the nudge unit.

When doctors are referring patients for appointments with hospital consultants, the Capacity Alert Ssystem displays a red light next to hospitals with lengthy waiting times, and a green light next to those with more availability. 

The system underwent two trials in north-east and south-west London over the winter. During these pilots the number of referrals made to overburdened hospitals was reduced by 40%, while those made to hospitals with spare capacity rose by 14%, according to NHS England.


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The capacity alert tool was developed by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), a policy unit focused on the use of nudge theory that was formerly embedded in Downing Street, but was spun out in 2014 and is now a company co-owned by the Cabinet Office, Nesta, and its employees. BIT will helping NHS England with the nationwide rollout of the system by producing a guide for GPs and holding a series of workshops across the country.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England director for operations and information, said: “This system makes it even easier for GPs and patients to understand hospital waiting times which will, in turn, see benefits for patients and hospitals. The Capacity Alert system is a good example of how smarter working and relatively simple innovations can lead to another big improvement in NHS services.”

Hannah Burd, senior advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team, added: “It’s in all our interests that patients and GPs have the most up-to-date information about their options when deciding where to go for care. This simple and cheap intervention supports these conversations and helps the referrals system to run more efficiently.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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