10 lessons for partners to the NHS elective recovery programme
At Newmarket Strategy, we work with a range of NHS organisations, partners, and suppliers on the elective recovery challenge. As the NHS approaches its first delivery milestone (eradicating >104wk waits) and with the journey to the next one (tackling >78wk waits) in mind, I have attempted to distil some brief advice – limiting myself here to ten top points.
It is aimed at commercial partners who have innovations or capacity to help the NHS deliver the Elective Recovery Plan. They are headline thoughts from what could be a much longer list, and it would be written differently depending on the nature of the offer (staffing, outsourced surgery, digital health etc). In many ways they are common sense, and yet in so many situations they are not common practice.
- Bring practical solutions to the near term operational and delivery challenges NHS organisations are actually dealing with. Putting your own offer to one side momentarily, begin instead with a real understanding of the true pressures on the NHS, and do not pitch things which do not answer these challenges.
- Find a way to offer genuine additional workforce to the NHS.This is the key supply constraint. Be creative, flexible (and potentially, international) so you can really show you are growing the total pool of clinical labour available to the NHS, not just repurposing what it already has.
- Stay attuned and adaptive to the changing operational plans from the center.Help trusts meet the key pillars and big bets which NHSE is driving from Skipton House, and through systems and regions, whether that be in improving surgical pathways, outpatient transformation, or new patient choice offers.
- Don’t forget the intermediary or hidden functions which are growing in scale and play a critical role.From Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) to Advice & Guidance services, virtual outpatients and Referral Assessment Services (RAS) there are opportunities for technology and clinical service providers to augment and upgrade NHS processes.
- Be willing to amend and expand your offer to meet local needs.It might mean widening the acuity of cases taken, or providing staff to support bookings or diagnostics earlier in the patient journey, but being able to flex the offer to local needs and pathways is often key.
- Take time to understand waiting list dynamics, prioritisation and pathways.An impactful, successful offer requires real understanding of where it fits in the referral pathway and how it correlates with the detailed categorisation, prioritisation and capacity planning done at a local level.
- Learn (and be able to explain) the language of NHS reimbursement and financial flows.Given the complexity of NHS financial flows and structures (including the Elective Recovery Fund), ensure you know how your offer could be paid for, and be able to articulate this to your customer (sometimes to educate them).
- Do approach the better performing and innovative trusts, not just those who are struggling most.Capacity and innovation is most badly needed in those furthest from achieving the set elective milestones, but early entry and proof of concept may be best adopted and expressed in the leading providers/Systems.
- Do not overstate the role of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and Systems just yet. Especially outside London, the engine room for transformation, capacity planning and commercial partnerships remains acute trusts for the time being. Be patient with the emerging structures, which are often still working on governance and recruitment.
- Do not give up.Other international markets, and private paying customers in the UK, offer attractive alternatives. But there is an opportunity to play a vital role for NHS patients and to embed long term and highly valuable partnerships within the NHS now and for the future.
The above is far from a cure-all for overcoming the various cultural, financial, and practical barriers which still make forming partnerships in the NHS a hard task at times. The service sometimes makes it hard to do the right thing. Perhaps the advice points for NHS organisations will be the subject of a future article!
For further insight on elective recovery and NHS partnerships, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation, confidential conversation.
By Ed Jones