Clinician discussing treatment options with a patient

Using rapidly mobile clinical teams to address patient backlogs

The emerging data and insight into the number of patients waiting for planned procedures and outpatient consultations worries everyone; a huge pool of unmet need created indirectly by the response to Covid-19. The huge increase in the number of patients waiting over 12 months is before the impact of the most recent round of cancellations. Further, we expect to see pressure rise as patients feel better able to engage with primary care and when referrals start to feed through the system faster.

This takes no account of the reductions in throughput and productivity in secondary care, an understandable consequence of physical distancing and infection control procedures limiting available capacity.

Attention is rightly shifting towards how to get the right clinician to those who need them most and start making a sizeable impact as quickly as possible. The scale and pace of response required means there is simply not enough time to build and equip more physical space, let alone an answer to where the capital required for a significant build programme will come from.

Outside conurbations, particularly in rural areas and where populations are highly dispersed, access to independent sector facilities can be very limited. Private hospitals are understandably focusing on insured and self-pay patients having made their capacity available to the NHS over a sustained period. For NHS leaders in search of rapid additional capacity, the search for facilities, need to design complex patient transfer and accountability arrangements and design pathways involving multiple providers and sites slows down response.

Frankly, it is going to be rapidly mobilised clinical teams which will make the difference.

The preferred solution for many trusts utilising central funding in London is just that. Bringing in expert teams to deliver services in existing NHS clinical sites at both scale and pace. In many cases, Medinet’s expert NHS consultant-led clinical teams have been mobilised in under two weeks and working to local policies and pathways, ensuring local control, across multiple specialities simultaneously.

This service model, delivering services in a hospital’s own facilities using expert clinical teams delivered by an expert partner, turns local elective care facilities into a true seven-day service. Medinet teams safely saw and treated more than 17,500 long waiting and urgent patients in the last few weeks of 2020, providing true additional capacity across weekdays, evenings and weekends. Our teams have even back-filled for other sessions to release local teams to ICU and critical support services during the week, helping to keep key services running.

Delivering additional elective services at pace is clearly essential. Throughout the last year, with many of the Royal Colleges and senior doctors warning over the damaging impact on individual lives of delayed care, in the recovery phase it is incumbent on the NHS to quickly and sustainably boost planned care.

Through one of our most recent surveys, we have found that over half of patients believe their condition has deteriorated and more worryingly 94% believe their condition negatively impacted their daily lives. Importantly, we found that nine in 10 want the NHS to extend its elective service delivery to seven days a week which is why the we believe so passionately that providing expert teams into existing NHS facilities is the fastest, safest and best value response.

With earmarked funding for backlog reduction now becoming available for trusts across England, we have capacity to complete over 68,000 consultant patient episodes each month and provide the capacity needed – that is a true seven-day elective care NHS service, serviced delivered by expert healthcare professionals. All mobilised within two weeks and ensuring local control.

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