The man once responsible for overseeing health services in Warrington hopes to help people get through long waits in hospital.
Andrew Burgess, the former chief executive of NHS Warrington, designed and founded the Health Compare website, with a team of IT and health technology specialists.
This aims to advise people where it is best to travel in the region to overcome the postcode lottery of waiting times for treatments.
It comes after research revealed a willingness among the public to travel further for faster access to NHS hospital treatment.
The Health Compare study, commissioned in early 2020 and again in late April 2022, looked at people’s understanding and experience of their NHS right to choose or change their choice of hospital.
The latest NHS wait times data for England shows that more than six million people are waiting for treatment, with significant variation in waits for the same specialty in hospitals across the country.
More than half of survey respondents (53%) were unaware they had the legal right to choose a hospital for non-emergency NHS treatment, while 61% said they would go further than their hospital local if they were offered NHS treatment three months earlier.
The average distance people said they planned to walk was 86 miles, with 27% saying they would walk up to 100 miles.
“Waiting times for NHS-funded hospital treatment can vary across the country by up to six months depending on the treatment,” Andrew said.
“It is worth researching your options if you need to be referred or if you have already been referred and have waited over 18 weeks for treatment to begin.
Andrew Burgess was the former chief executive of NHS Warrington
“Although our research shows that the majority of people were willing to travel further for shorter wait times and better quality hospitals, there is little awareness of their right to choose or change hospital providers to achieve this. .
“As a result, many people may be waiting too long for their NHS care when they might not need it.”
In response to continuing evidence of a lack of public knowledge about NHS hospital care provider options, Health Compare is launching a ‘Your Health, Your Choice’ campaign to raise public awareness.
He is backed by Dr Arun Ghosh, GP and TV doctor, who commented: “When it comes to choosing where to get your non-emergency hospital treatment, the right to choose from a range of providers across the country, whether in an NHS or private hospital, is a key principle of the NHS Constitution for England for most patients.
“Knowing what is possible and exercising your rights could mean getting treatment faster.
“We need to imagine the NHS exactly like that – a national health service, rather than a ‘wait and see only hospital that’s near me’ service.
“GPs often don’t refer patients to local hospitals, but looking further afield for those who can and want to travel further can open up more possibilities, not only in terms of shorter waiting times, but also patient access to specialist clinics, treatments and consultants in other parts of the country.
Providing patients and GPs with unbiased information and an easy to use research website to support these choices is the motivation behind Health Compare.
Andrew added: “That’s why we created Health Compare – to help you compare health services in the same way you might use MoneySavingExpert or Booking.com to choose a provider.
“We have used a similar approach to defend patient rights and consumer choice in healthcare – covering hospitals, GP practices and online GPs, care homes and health services. home care across the country.”