As we draw closer to the New Year, our Head of Transformation reflects on the past year, looking at the impact of Covid-19 and how the NHS can address some of its long-term issues
Pre-Covid-19, what state was the NHS in?
Even before the onset of Covid-19, the NHS was struggling to deal with waiting lists, with long delays to patients receiving treatment and an inability to prioritise them. There was also an inefficient use of resources, with a large administrative burden on clinicians and an inability to assess demand.
How has Covid-19 impacted the NHS’s ability to function?
Once the pandemic started, the situation become much worse. Clinicians and consultants went from treating patients in outpatient clinics and dealing with the backlog, to treating patients with Covid-19.
Clinics used to treat urgent cases, such as cancer, were closed which resulted in hospitals not being able to hit their waiting list targets which have continued to increase. The NHS now faces a target of reducing outpatient attendance by up to 50%.
What was your view of Phase 3 of NHS England’s response to Covid-19?
In Phase 3 of the response to Covid-19, NHS England instructed primary and secondary care to return to pre Covid-19 levels by re-opening outpatient clinics to urgent patients. The resulted in those on waiting lists for routine care being delayed further, impacting on the length of waiting lists and leading to further delays in treatment.
As part of this phase, the NHS is undertaking a number of initiatives including A&G to provide support to GPs, increasing locum consultant staff, re-triaging cases back to primary care, transferring patients to community providers and outsourcing to private hospitals.
However, some of these services require significant infrastructure, are labour intensive and come with a high cost.
As we approach the New Year with a vaccine, how do you see the situation developing?
The situation will worsen over these winter months and even the vaccine will add further pressure as there will be an influx of patients whose appointments have been deferred over the past months.
Despite its perilous position, though, the NHS is not beyond saving. It is also not about throwing more money at it. It is about doing things and using resources in a smarter way and thinking differently.
What is necessary is to implement proven solutions proven solutions like Rego Care Navigator that use NHS resources in a smarter way, for the long-term benefit. I believe an automated triage system is the most effective way of solving the waiting list problem, and for the NHS to be equipped to deal with spikes in demand for medical care in the months to come.