Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has been criticised for promoting a mobile application that helps NHS patients find accident and emergency departments with the shortest waiting times.
Hancock described the WaitLess app as “good for patients [and] good for clinicians” but critics on social media pointed out that the technology may not solve the root causes of delays.
Dean Burns, who describes himself as a critical care physician, wrote to Hancock: “I need discharges, hospital beds & joined up social care. Once you’ve done that, then you can do an app.”
“How about we create more beds and open the old closed dusty wards?” another person asked. “How about we sort out the tens of thousands of doctor vacancies in the UK? Surely this would be better for patients and staff?”
Shelley Pearce, a nurse, said: “I’m not sure the wait should be the reason a person attends or not as their wait will depend on what is wrong and how promptly they need to be seen & treated.”
Another doctor blasted: “Wrong. Very wrong. If you are acutely unwell go to the nearest Emergency Department.”
The NHS in England has not met its target for 95% of those attending A&E to be seen within four hours since July 2015.
Last month, figures showed 86.6% of patients were seen within four hours across all departments, with 59,508 four-hour delays.
Senior doctors have heralded the WaitLess app’s “game changer” potential if it diverts those with less serious injuries to GP-led urgent treatment centres, rather than overstretched casualty departments, The Times newspaper reported.
The app will also allow patients to calculate journey times between A&Es.
Hancock, a former culture secretary who famously launched his own application to speak with his constituents, has said he intends to lead the NHS through a “digital revolution”.