Abi Tierney discusses how support service providers are stepping up to the challenge of care co-ordination
Winter is a particularly challenging time in healthcare, and has been for several years. Hospitals will have fully formed plans for 2018-19 but, even with the recently announced promise of additional funds for social care, it is still going to be painful for many hospitals and their staff.
Hospitals have many good improvement tools at their disposal, but despite that NHS Improvement is predicting a bed shortage of 10,000 bed days this winter.
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With operational healthcare experience and capability, the NHS should be looking to support service providers and other partners to step up to the challenge of managing the journey of patients through the hospital and beyond.
We need to be thinking about winter 2019-20 and what can be done differently now.
The system is under considerable strain so models of care have to transform to meet today’s healthcare challenge, and that will take several years: we should not underestimate the scale of the cultural change that’s required.
Many providers and local systems are, however, moving towards an integrated vision, at differing rates, through differing means. In the long term, the challenge is about flow, co-ordination across the system in the widest sense – including integrated care systems.
Those of us delivering operational services see the problem at first hand and have an intrinsic interest in addressing it. We also have significant levers within our grasp
In the short term, safety, predictability and sustainability are critical and this demands better acute patient flow, involving people, process and systems. Too often technology is seen as the answer but, while hugely important, technology alone will have limited impact on acute patient flow.
Some frontline managers may well have the expertise to address patient flow, but the unrelenting pressure of day to day operations means that there is a lack of capacity to deliver the required change at pace. So, the NHS should look to its support service providers and other partners to step up to the challenge.
Those of us delivering operational services see the problem at first hand and have an intrinsic interest in addressing it. We also have significant levers within our grasp; including domestics and porters who are absolutely critical to bed turnaround times and transporting patients through the various stages of their stay in the hospital.
We can enhance current service provision, work closely with technology providers, draw on deep healthcare experience and bring ideas from other industries, such as complex flow management solutions from aviation and manufacturing. We understand how to bring teams and cultures together in the public sector to deliver a service end to end, from booking through to discharge, or even to the wider care system.
Support service providers, like Serco, can work in partnership with the NHS to develop a shared vision, create a long term plan and deliver solutions to address patient flow, operated through. We can knit together changes in culture, people, process and systems, to transform care co-ordination and allow clinicians to care for their patients.