Jean Challiner focuses on factors significant in increasing elective care capacity amidst pandemic surges

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Given the growing and well-publicised numbers of patients waiting for non-urgent treatment, many are wondering where to begin, not to mention how to make a significant impact on the worsening waiting times.

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Buying or building premises takes time and significant levels of investment but buildings alone lack the most important factor of all – expert NHS clinicians providing the right care. This is the single biggest lesson learnt from Nightingale hospitals: facilities might be great but it’s outstanding clinical teams that make the difference.

Whilst there are high concentrations of private hospitals in London, elsewhere independent sector options can be very limited. Although the private hospital groups have supported the NHS during pandemic surges, this sector is increasingly turning its sights on the backlog of self-pay and insured patients.

One solution is to bring in expert teams to deliver services in existing NHS clinical sites.

At Medinet, we’re working tirelessly with NHS England and our NHS Partners across the UK to safely see and treat long waiting and urgent patients, treating more than 17,500 in the last few weeks of 2020. Our expert NHS consultant-led clinical teams have been turning local elective care facilities into a true seven-day service by providing care on NHS acute premises. Delivery has been across evenings, weekends, and back-filling other sessions to release local staff to ICU/wards during the week whilst keeping planned services running.

For many trusts utilising central funding in London, this has been a strongly preferred option, ensuring ownership and accountability of local policies and protocols, flexibility in service design and delivery, and services delivered at or below tariff. All at a time when the local private facilities were not able to mobilise, let alone scale.

Most importantly, it has provided what is actually needed. That is expert clinicians seeing and treating patients and not simply the creation of more premises.

There is also the matter of patient views. Through one of our most recent patient surveys, we have found that not only did all patients feel they had waited too long for treatment, but more worryingly 94% believed their condition negatively impacted their daily lives. 50% also believed their condition had deteriorated, and nine in 10 want the NHS to extend its elective service delivery to seven days a week.

With central funding now available for trusts across England, we have capacity to complete over 68,000 consultant patient episodes each month and provide the capacity needed – that is a true seven day elective care NHS service, delivered by expert healthcare professionals.