The National Health Service (NHS) reforms put in place by the UK government are yet to achieve all that was promised, according to a report.
Despite some encouraging results, there remains a long way to go before patient benefits are fully realised, it said.
The Audit Commission and Healthcare Commission study revealed that introducing measures to move care closer to home and increase patient choice have been slower than expected with hospitals having to bear the brunt of a failure to reduce their patient numbers.
Since April, patients have been able to choose from any NHS hospital in England or private provider that uses NHS money for their elective care.
The study noted that in 2006/07 only 11% of primary care trusts were using the Choose and Book system for booking appointments despite a goal of 90% utilisation. Another 31% were underperforming against this target while 58% had outright failed to meet it.
Such evidence suggests “that the challenge of persuading GPs to adopt the new system has been greater than anticipated”.
The report also found that patients did not have enough information to comfortably decide where they wish to be treated.
“The pace of implementation of the choice policy is lower than expected and challenging,” it said.
“Patients continue to be offered choice without having the information that they feel they need to be able to make a decision.”
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