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13.06.18

NHSI boss wants ‘radical change of thinking’ about ageing population akin to MH approach

The chief executive of NHS Improvement (NHSI) has argued the industry needs to adopt a “radical change of thinking” in dealing with demand from an ageing population, similar to that of the approach to mental health.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference in Manchester today, Ian Dalton said there were “immense and unwarranted variations” in a plethora of healthcare sectors, limiting the standard and quality of patient care.

Dalton cited a 300% variation in English hospitals in the lengths of stays for medical issues such as pneumonia, adding that this – alongside with unprecedented demand over the winter – is preventing services from progressing and reducing high ‘bed-blocking’ rates.

Outpatient services were attended 64 million times in the UK last year, costing the NHS nearly £8bn; 350,000 patients spent more than three weeks in an acute hospital.

“We have to do something to free capacity. We have to focus on length of stay and have the same forensic attention for something that seems very difficult, like a quarter reduction in the length of stay of 21+ day patients to be delivered this year,” said Dalton.

“The NHS acute sector cannot deliver this on its own. This is a call to action that we’re making for the whole of the NHS, including community services and local authorities. This vital objective is an action call for the whole of the system.”

Dalton explained that the industry needs to reach its target of reducing eight district hospital’s worth of capacity before winter by adopting a “radical” approach similar to that of the way mental health issues are now supported in the UK.

He added: “If we want an example of where a fundamental and outstanding transformation of care is taking place, led by the NHS but with support of surrounding and community services and social care, we can look at the treatment of mental health.

“The model of care of mental health has been fundamentally altered. We have supported people with mental illnesses and disabilities so that they can lead completely different and better lives. To me it’s this kind of radical thinking, with the partnership working that stretches outside individual organisations, that we now need to bring to bear on the biggest challenge the NHS will face in the next decade – that is, dealing with the growing demands of an ageing population.”

Dalton said that NHSI’s and NHS England’s agreement to merge finance services and executive boards are one of the examples of a new, unified approach to ageing population demands. The chief executive explained that the organisation will adopt a “pan-NHS approach” to improvement and development covering primary, secondary, and community care.

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