Maximising NHS capacity: remote healthcare services
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the rapid uptake of remote health services. The numbers of GP consultations, outpatient appointments, and even community diagnostic interventions have all increased dramatically over the last 12 months.
Even before the pandemic, remote services were seen as one solution to helping the NHS to deliver services more efficiently; in 2018, 25% of doctors thought that 10-20% of their new patients didn’t need to come to an outpatient clinic at all. With the NHS’s need to maximise capacity greater than ever, the smarter and more effective use of remote services will be critical to the NHS’s recovery.
To take mental health as an example:
- The rise in the number of people needing to access services is outstripping the available workforce. Although the number of consultant psychiatrists increased by 4.3% between 2015 – 2020, referrals increased by 8% in 2018/19 alone
- Before the pandemic, waiting times varied dramatically with some areas seeing waits as short as four days for first treatment whilst others had waits of over 60 days
- The pressures of COVID-19 are expected to worsen the mismatch between demand and capacity, with the need for social distancing measures sometimes reducing capacity for some mental health providers by an estimated 10-30% whist demand increases by up to 20%
For a sector that was stretched before COVID-19, this is clearly unsustainable. Technology, and virtual delivery of services can provide part of the answer. We are one of the NHS’s largest digital IAPT providers, with 2,700 patients currently in treatment. Our service both allows patients to access services out-of-hours and our registered clinicians to work when they want – unlocking more clinical time by saving the need to travel between clinics, whilst delivering better recovery rates than the average across NHS IAPT services. Digital IAPT services – and other digital health services – can play an important part in supplementing the physical capacity of NHS services.
This is an excerpt from Acacium Group’s insights bulletin; we hope you found this helpful, for further information, and to access the full bulletin, please click here. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us here.