PATIENTS waiting more than 18 months for NHS treatment will be able to go private for free in plans to slash the Covid backlog.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid will say today that expanding the “right to choose” will help speed up care as six million languish on waiting lists.
Mr Javid wants 60 per cent more patients with long-term needs to get “personalised care” by 2024.
It means four million Brits will have a much bigger say on their treatment, and how it is delivered.
The plans will also see an expansion in the number of people getting personal health budgets beyond the current 200,000 target.
The allowances are handed to those with long-term conditions — such as stroke victims or arthritis sufferers — to pay for carers or specialist medical equipment.
Officials say giving patients control boosts health outcomes and quality of life but critics argue the system is open to abuse, with some splashing the cash on holidays, theme park visits and gadgets.
Officials claim increasing patient choice will save the NHS money in the long run and Mr Javid will say that reform is crucial to help tackle the pandemic backlog.
Speaking at the Royal College of Physicians in London, he will say: “It’s clear we were always going to come to a crossroads — a point where we must choose between endlessly putting in more and more money, or reforming how we do healthcare.
“I choose reform.”
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said the reforms put patients “in the driving seat” on decisions about their care.
She added: “These measures will support the work of the NHS Long Term Plan, giving more patients greater choice and control over their own health.”
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