London: Andrew Hine, Partner and UK Head of Public Healthcare at KPMG, argues that better use of technology will resolve some of the pressure faced by NHS staff today.
"With the health service facing a period of unprecedented change in terms of cost reduction, quality improvement and greater choice for patients, the pressure to deliver first class medical care has never been greater. At the same time, with so much attention focused on the future of health and social care in Britain, the reality is that improvements may stall if too much attention is given to the number of carers on the wards, rather than the nature of care they provide.
"The simple truth is that healthcare should no longer be confined to our hospitals or the waiting rooms of a GPs surgery. Patients want a better all-round experience, meaning that any opportunity to provide care away from medical centres should be considered. Given the success of the Government's recent telehealth trial all the indications are that patients monitored from the comfort of their own home result in reduced re-admissions, less bed-time use and better managed long-term conditions. With NHS organisations dedicating up to 4 percent of their budget to IT, what better way to serve patient needs and meet current financial requirements?"
Hine also suggests that the pressures faced by front-line NHS staff will be eased through closer integration of healthcare services.
"Increasingly, organisations across the NHS are looking to collaborate, but what they are doing should be focused on clinical and service integration — rather than how the organisations can come together. That's why a recent report by the King's Fund and Nuffield Trust stressed that 'integrated care in the NHS needs to be pursued at all levels to overcome the risks of fragmentation'. Put simply, NHS staff would find their jobs easier with improved sharing and handover of patient information and reduced duplication along the care pathway."
"Of course, to succeed integration will require fundamental changes to way we currently work, including a shift from our medical and hospital focussed model to a less disease based approach. Building on the Government's study, integration should incorporate technology, such as telehealth and telecare, to put patients and their carers in control and facilitate healthcare at home or in the community. Patient assessments should focus on what is important to them and their families — not simply an intervention."