Doctors will be asked to message their patients via WhatsApp in NHS reforms which aim to use shortcuts taken during the pandemic as a way to modernise the service.
Matt Hancock will, on Thursday, announce a “bureaucracy busting push” in a bid to offer patients far more direct access to medics, using smartphone consultations, and “secure messaging” to speed up access to information.
The Health Secretary will ask NHS staff to share their ideas on ways which rules and regulations could be amended, to free them up.
And he will say that many changes introduced in response to the national crisis should be kept for good.
Mr Hancock will say that in the future, online and video consultations with GPs should be routinely offered, and services such as WhatsApp Messenger used as a way to communicate with patients.
He will make the “call for evidence” asking staff to “find and promote positive changes” which were delivered during the pandemic.
On Wednesday evening Mr Hancock said: “Our NHS people deserve to get on with caring for patients and this crisis has proved there’s bureaucracy that our healthcare system can do better without. So I’m urging people across the NHS and social care to speak up about what red tape you can do without to allow you to better deliver the high-quality care you are renowned for.”
Health officials said the changes “could include allowing staff to use secure messaging services such as WhatsApp so patients can benefit from rapid access to information”.
They said the pandemic highlighted areas where unnecessary bureaucracy could be cut, while still ensuring safe, high standards of care.
Health and care staff will be invited to share their insights and experiences of “overly burdensome bureaucracy” in the health and social care system as part of a call for evidence.
The call will come alongside publication of an NHS People Plan, aiming to recruit and retain more staff, by offering more flexible and remote working.
Prerana Issar, NHS chief people officer, said: “The pandemic has created huge challenges, but it has also highlighted the courage and innovation we are capable of in the most difficult of times.
“We have recognised the need for consistently high-quality health and wellbeing support for our staff, so they can better care for themselves and their patients. These changes must remain part of the blueprint of our NHS as we move forward together.”
Health officials said the recriutiment drive aims to capitalise on renewed interest in jobs in health – with the NHS careers website seeing a 138 per cent increase in interest in nursing.
The plan says NHS trusts should do more to help the wellbeing of staff, with safe spaces to rest and recuperate, “wellbeing guardians” and support to keep staff physically safe and healthy.