Chief Executive, Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN)
The success of the NHS post-COVID relies on a collaborative approach to ensure the health service can recover.
The NHS is undoubtedly facing unprecedented pressures at the moment. Not only is the health service still dealing with high numbers of COVID patients, but it also needs to tackle a backlog of treatments with almost 6 million people waiting for care.
Support from independent sector
While independent healthcare providers have played a key role in delivering NHS care since its inception in 1948, relationships between the two sectors have undoubtedly strengthened throughout the pandemic. This can be seen particularly through the national NHS/independent hospital COVID contract which led to the delivery of over 3.3 million NHS procedures during the height of the pandemic.1 It’s therefore important we build on these partnerships developed during COVID and ensure teams across the NHS can successfully clear the growing backlog of treatment.
With the NHS workforce under pressure, a key area the independent sector is supporting is the training of junior doctors to ensure they can gain the necessary experience and professional development during a hugely turbulent time. Since an agreement was reached between the independent sector, Health Education England and NHS England in autumn 2020, over 4,000 NHS junior doctors have undertaken their training in the independent sector – accessing vital ‘green pathway’ facilities to carry out many routine procedures unable to take place in the NHS due to COVID.
With the NHS workforce under pressure, a key area the independent sector is supporting is the training of junior doctors.
Tackling health inequalities
Looking at the longer term NHS recovery, it’s clear that health services need to be delivered in increasingly accessible and more inclusive ways, which the independent sector is keen to play a part in. This can be seen particularly through the NHS’ new Community Diagnostics Centres (CDCs) which will provide vital tests and scans on high streets and communities to drive up early detection of cancer and other diseases and helping to reduce health inequalities.
Independent providers have significant experience in running these more innovative models of care and are working with local NHS areas across England to bring their investment and expertise to these new projects.
Working together as one
While the NHS’ journey to recovery post-COVID will undoubtedly be a challenging one, the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated what can be achieved when all parts of the health service work together and when teams from the public and private sectors work as one.