HEALTH bosses are running a pilot scheme with patients in a bid to tackle rising waiting lists.

A group of 1,000 patients will be contacted via an automated telephone system this week to update longstanding, unseen referrals with current information, and to check if their appointments are still needed.

Rising NHS waiting lists have been one of the major fallouts in health care as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Graham James, deputy chief medical officer at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “As a result of the pandemic, more patients are currently waiting for a specialist appointment and we are working hard to reduce the list.

“Many of these are people who were referred during the pandemic but have yet to be contacted regarding a hospital appointment.

“We will be contacting patients on waiting lists to reassure them they are on the list, and allow us to determine the status of their condition and whether they still wish to be seen.”

“We are piloting a new automated calling system to enable more patients to be contacted more quickly.”

The pilot will involve those awaiting first appointments for orthopaedic, gynaecology and oral and maxillofacial speciality referrals, and if successful it will be used for patients waiting to be seen for other conditions.

Hospitals are working to contact patients by phone, letter or automated callers.

Mike Emery, director for digital health and infrastructure at NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG said: “We know that across the country the NHS is facing a huge challenge to restore services as a result of the disruption caused throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In order to address waiting times, and get patients in for treatment where required, we are looking at a number of ways to do this and automated calling is one option.

“We will still be using traditional means of letter writing and personal calling also, but in addition to this we need to look to innovative solutions to help manage the increasing demand for services.”

Automated calling is being used elsewhere in the country to contact those who have waited throughout the pandemic to see if they wish to remain on appointment lists.