Chief Executive Independent Healthcare Provider Network (IHPN)
NHS and independent healthcare providers have a long history of working together to deliver services to NHS patients free at the point of use. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated that partnership further.
The sector delivers hundreds of thousands of NHS operations every year. It also provides care to millions more NHS patients through the delivery of diagnostic imaging, primary and community care as well as clinical home healthcare and digital services.
Rapid availability of independent capacity
However, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, this partnership stepped up to a whole new level. In a bid to avoid the health service being overwhelmed by the virus in the same way that large parts of the world in March, a deal was struck within days between the NHS and independent sector providers.
The deal made virtually the entire independent hospital sector available, including their 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and over 1,000 ventilators, to help the coronavirus effort. This historic deal is on an “at cost” basis with no profit being made during this time. It was vital in ensuring that the NHS had enough capacity to deal with surges in the virus and that vital NHS treatment, notably cancer care, could continue.
The deal made virtually the entire independent hospital sector available, including their 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and over 1,000 ventilators, to help the coronavirus effort.
Since the agreement was reached in the spring, over 1.5 million NHS operations, scans, and chemotherapy sessions have been delivered by the independent sector under the contract. There has been some truly inspirational partnership working taking place.
All across the country there are countless examples of independent providers repurposing their facilities and welcoming whole NHS teams in. They have also undertaken new training and implemented new processes, all within a matter of days to ensure that patient care could continue during this time.
Helping the NHS to stay open
Equally, independent healthcare providers delivering diagnostic, primary and community care really stepped up and worked with their local NHS partners to ensure patients could continue to receive treatment in a safe and timely way during lockdown. This includes switching from face-to-face to virtual consultations, repurposing their services to ensure vital NHS care which ordinarily would take place in hospitals can be carried out in the community. They have continued to provide overarching support as needed by the NHS.
With the second wave of COVID-19 upon us and the impact of the virus to be felt for some time to come, no one should be in any doubt about the scale of the challenge that faces the health service.
The coronavirus pandemic has really 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. Indeed, with NHS waiting lists set to hit record levels and a growing backlog of delayed treatment to work through, the independent sector’s ability to seamlessly work hand in hand with the NHS by adding capital, capacity and capability should be seen as integral to getting the health service back on its feet.