Reducing referrals to overbooked clinics

  • 2017
  • NHS

More than 4 million people are waiting for NHS specialist care. Some wait more than a year for treatment, and waitlist length varies by hospital and specialty.


We considered two insights that could be used to address issues with waitlists:

  • Salience. People’s attention is drawn to what is new and/or seems relevant. Making wait times in clinics more salient could help to reduce demand for busier clinics.
  • Timely prompts. Giving people reminders at the right time can help them to take action.

We redesigned the UK’s patient referral system to make wait times more salient – for example, by showing a red ‘Limited Capacity’ flag for clinics with very long wait times.

Result & Impact

Referrals to overburdened clinics were cut by 38 per cent.