12 January 2021

Embracing a “whole systems” approach to localised continuity of care

Coronavirus has tested every part of the UK’s health infrastructure and has proven to be a crisis on a scale unlike anything the healthcare sector has experienced before.

The pandemic has brought together the public and independent sectors in an unprecedented way and has revealed the need for a (time-sensitive) rethink of the way healthcare is delivered in Britain; towards a model that continues to generate new ways of working, foster innovation and maintain high quality continuity of care in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

From the outset, Transform Hospital Group fully recognised the need for the independent sector to step up to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. Within a matter of days, we were ready to admit our first NHS patients as part of the ground-breaking partnership between NHS England and the independent sector. Everyone at Transform Hospital Group is proud to have played a part in the independent sector’s response; and I have huge admiration for the speed with which the teams at our hospitals responded to the crisis and stepped up to help the NHS.

As the initial pressures caused by the ‘first wave’ ease, it is increasingly evident that there will be lasting implications for the delivery of healthcare in the UK. Our experience of providing NHS services in recent months has revealed the potential for the independent sector to collaborate and contribute even more value to the UK’s public health system, as the nation re-builds from the pandemic.

At Transform Hospital Group, we intend to help lead the way in building a more collaborative healthcare ecosystem that works at a local level, collaborating with Trusts and CCGs near our hospitals and clinics to embrace opportunities for innovation in the way care is delivered. This means finding new ways to provide care efficiently and effectively in a way that makes optimum use of all partners’ strengths and experience.

With the shared objective of delivering outstanding patient care, the reconfiguration of the provision of public healthcare services in the age of COVID-19 cannot be achieved without the consultation and active participation of local partners, local government, independent providers, the NHS and local third sector organisations. And, in my view, this approach requires a long-term strategic vision that reframes historic thinking around the NHS-independent sector partnership to reflect the critical role of independent providers in a well-balanced healthcare system that works in the interests of patients and clinicians alike.

A “whole systems” approach to delivering NHS services would provide cost-efficient healthcare services to patients free at the point of use (a point which is not up for debate), integrates the important steps forward during the pandemic that have been achieved through collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem and addresses the shortcomings of the traditional public-private divide.

Recent IHPN research shows that patients are agnostic about the identity of their care provider– so long as it is timely, high quality and free at the point of use. Therefore, viewing the healthcare ecosystem as an integrated, holistic provider of services is central to delivering outstanding patient care in the long term. This integration applies at a fundamental level to ensuring uniformity between the public and independent sectors as regards the highest standards of patient safety, compliance and good governance – including the storage of patient data. This systemic integration remains vital to maintaining patient confidence in the UK’s healthcare system (be the end provider public or independent), not only as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also as we emerge the other side of the crisis, with the country and its health infrastructure in a stronger position than ever before.  

As we reflect and consider the direction of the UK’s healthcare sector – at a national and local level – we should not forget all that has been achieved and learnt in just a matter of months. As professionals in the healthcare sector, we should challenge ourselves to configure an integrated healthcare system that works for everyone, in whatever context, wherever they need it: delivering outstanding continuity of care effectively and in a cost efficient way, ensuring that we take advantage of everything Britain’s healthcare system has to offer, to sustain our position as a world class provider of outstanding care.