Specialist Hospitals to Play Major NHS Role According to Stevens

The boss of NHS in England has suggested that specialist hospitals can play a major role in clinical innovation going forward.

Simon Stevens stated that such institutions should share best practice and develop new care models in order to play a major role in the future of the health service.

Stevens has just penned a forward to a report by the Federation of Specialist Hospitals (FSH).

The report was launched in Parliament on 25th November.

Commenting on the potential of specialist hospitals, Stevens suggested that such institutions have already established an excellent track record across the NHS.

“As we radically redesign care, now more than ever before we need to seize the opportunities that science and new treatments offer patients. We must maximise the impact of these centres of excellence and spread their learning across the rest of the health service,” Stevens opined.

Continuing on his theme, Stevens outlined the successes of the new care models programme.

“Through the new care models programme, we are already supporting specialist networks, like those led by The Christie, The Royal Marsden, Moorfields Eye Hospital and other federation members, to serve a wider population.”

In the published report, it is recommended by the FSH that specialist hospitals can make a particularly valuable contribution to the fields of clinical research and innovation.

This potential should be recognised and supported by the implementation of national policy, with the Accelerated Access Review considered particularly important.

The launch event for the report saw a team of significant figureheads from across the whole service assembled.

These included former care minister Norman Lamb MP, minister for life sciences George Freeman MP, and FSH chair and national director of clinical quality and efficiency at the Department of Health, Professor Tim Briggs.

Commenting on the report at its launch, Professor Briggs suggested that specialist hospitals have particular characteristics that support their ability to engage in cutting-edge innovation and research.

“Specialist hospitals are characterised by their focus on a single speciality and, usually, by a disproportionately complex casemix. As such, specialist hospitals are often home to investment in cutting-edge innovation and are substantial contributors to clinical training and research.”

Briggs continued by emphasising the importance of such institutions to research in the NHS, and the commitment of those present at the launch of the support of this concept.

Adding to Briggs’ comments, Rob Webster, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, suggested that there was a fertile environment in the NHS for this initiative.

“There has never been a more important time for this, as innovation is fundamental to transforming NHS care and finding greater efficiency. As a champion of the Accelerated Access Review, I am grateful that this report reinforces that the ultimate test of the Review will be how effectively the health system is able to adopt and spread innovations like these for the benefit of our staff, our patients and the NHS.”

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Spending Review Paints Worrying Health and Social Care Picture

A Spending Review into health and social care funding has acknowledged that, in a challenging period for the service, more funding will be needed in the foreseeable future.

The review outlines the short, medium and long-term outlook for health and social care in the UK, having assessed the existing service in recent months.

According to the review, health and social care will be bombarded with growing pressure on services in the coming years.

This means that large-scale changes must be implemented in order to ensure the future sustainability of this critical aspect of the NHS.

Should the management of health and social care fail to pay heed to this warning, inevitably patients will have to wait longer for diagnosis and treatment.

This could ultimately have the effect of not only reducing the quality of health and social care, but also, critically, with fewer people receiving publicly funded social care in the future.

The latter of these two potential consequences should be considered particularly important in a society in which there is growing evidence of a ‘greying’ population.

Unquestionably, the demographics indicate that larger numbers of people will require health and social care in the future, so the conclusions that potentially less people could receive this assistance should be considered extremely serious.

The Spending Review concluded that the NHS is on course to overspend its budget in the current financial year. Emergency deficit funding is likely to be required in this fiscal year, perhaps amounting to as much as £1 billion.

Although the British government has already committed to increase budgetary spending on the NHS by £8 billion in real terms by the end of the decade, this was considered little more than the absolute bare minimum requirement to maintain the existing standard of care.

Once again, the Spending Review called into question David Cameron’s plans for a seven-day NHS culture, as the review of the NHS emphatically concludes that the promised additional expenditure will not fund such commitments.

To ensure adequate funding, the report asserts that the long term aim should be to increase public spending on health and social care to 11–12 per cent of GDP; the proportion currently spent by countries such as France, Canada and the Netherlands on healthcare alone.

The Spending Review also concluded that It is essential for this extra funding to be front-loaded from 2016/17 to avoid an accelerating decline in performance and quality.

Another major suggestion of the review is the creation of a dedicated transformation fund. This would be intended to unlock productivity improvements and support the development of a new care model across health and social care.

Having collaborated with The Health Foundation, the Spending Review estimates that £1.5 – £2.1 billion a year will be required from 2016/17 to 2020/21 to fund this concept.

There are also risks in cutting spending on training the future workforce when staff shortages and the costs of agency staff are major concerns.

However, there was some good news provided by the Spending Review as well. The review concluded that it would be possible to save more than the £22 billion budgeted for in efficiency savings.

But the review concludes that “in our view it is not credible to maintain that current standards of care can be sustained (let alone improved) without the funding needed to deliver this. The government should therefore spell out the consequences for patients and users of publicly funded social care of not providing the additional funding we argue for. This means being honest about the fact that access to care will deteriorate further and quality of care will be compromised because of the choices made about public spending and taxation during this parliament.”

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