Doctors should use the WhatsApp text messaging service to give patients test results and medical advice, the Health Secretary will announce today.
Matt Hancock also wants to increase the number of remote appointments to build on the ‘positive changes’ brought about by the pandemic.
Healthcare staff should be allowed to attend meetings virtually – such as via video service Zoom – avoiding the need to travel, and they should be encouraged to work more flexible hours, he will say.
The proposals will form part of the NHS People’s Plan which will set out how ministers intend to recruit and retain many more doctors, nurses and other frontline staff.
One of the key clauses will include more flexible working for staff including the ability to practise from home or not having to do rigid, full-time hours.
From January next year all NHS jobs will be advertised as being available on a flexible working pattern and officials hope they will attract more candidates, including those with young families or caring responsibilities.
Mr Hancock will also promise to slash some of the bureaucracy and form-filling which many staff feel diverts them away from frontline care.
He wants employees to tell the Department of Health about the red tape they want to get rid of, which could include treatment targets or inspections of surgeries.
Mr Hancock said: ‘Every single person working in the NHS has contributed to an unprecedented national effort to beat back this virus and save lives.
‘They have protected us and in return this Government will do everything in its power to protect and support them. 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.’
Figures from before the pandemic suggest that one in ten doctor posts in the NHS were vacant alongside one in eight nursing roles.
The People Plan will also set out proposals to improve staff wellbeing in the hope they will stay in their jobs for longer.
Prerana Issar, the NHS’s chief people officer, said: ‘This plan aims to make real and lasting change in our NHS to benefit our hardworking staff.
‘It includes practical actions based on what our people tell us matters to them, including a more equal, inclusive and flexible organisation.
‘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.’