What does the future of outpatients look like?

Everyone has experienced outpatient services at some point in their lives – as patients, carers or through our work. From that experience we’ve all had ideas about how our outpatient service could be improved if we did things differently. Many of these ideas remain just that – ideas – and we’ve not seen a great deal of change in outpatients since the creation of the NHS 75 years ago.

There has been some progress over the last three years, with the pandemic accelerating adoption of innovation. Thanks to the efforts of local outpatient teams who embraced technology and began offering patients new and different ways of monitoring long term conditions and accessing care we now have some great practice and learnings that can help shape the future direction for outpatient services.

We must embrace this progress and look ahead to what the future service model for patients who need planned specialist care but don’t need admission looks like. Through this work, we can ensure that the NHS continues to be fit for purpose for the next 75 years and beyond.

We, NHS England, together with the Royal College of Physicians are challenging ourselves to do just that, developing a new strategy that will set out a vision for the future of specialist care, as well as identifying some of the tangible actions we can all take to ensure that the vision becomes a reality.

We want the strategy to be genuinely co-produced with our stakeholders. We are ready to hear ideas, old and new, and to work through what changes can be made and how they can be implemented by working with those who deliver services and those who will be most impacted by any change. By doing this we can come up with a strategy for planned specialist care that we can all get behind and implement together.

We’ve put a number of mechanisms in place to gather insights and ideas including arranging a series of summits bringing together representatives from across the health and care sector and patients who use outpatient services. The first summit is taking place today and will focus on what we really mean when we use the term ‘outpatient care’, what some of the key enablers are to delivering ‘good’ outpatient care and what changes we’d like to see as we look to the future. For me, I’m most looking forward to hearing from those with lived experience who will cement exactly why this piece of work is so important, as well as hearing from my clinical colleagues to better understand where they think the opportunity for change might lie in outpatients.

Today’s summit is just one of many opportunities to feed in ideas to the new strategy. If you have an idea to share, no matter how big or small, new or old, please share it with us here:

For more information and updates about the strategy as it develops, see the Outpatients Strategy page on the RCP Medical Care website and follow the Outpatient recovery and transformation page on LinkedIn for updates.

Dr Vin Diwakar

Medical Director for Transformation and Secondary Care National Medical and Transformation Directorates NHS England.

Vin Diwakar is the Medical Director for Transformation in the National Transformation Directorate and leads on the secondary care portfolio in the National Improvement Directorate. He provides clinical leadership to improvement and transformation programmes including those which use improvement science, technology, digital, and data. He leads teams which are supporting improvement and transformation of a number of different clinical areas including diagnostics, urgent, emergency, acute and planned care and is responsible for improving clinical effectiveness.

In his previous role, he provided clinical leadership to London’s health and care system and was a key member of the multiprofessional regional team which led the capital through the COVID-19 pandemic.