Can localised services combat waiting list pressures?

Ian Gillespie, chief executive, Vanguard Healthcare

Healthcare expert pinpoints flexible approach as waiting list solution

Vanguard Healthcare chief executive Ian Gillespie believes a locally led approach can combat failed hospital waiting time targets.

Writing in the Health Service Journal, Mr Gillespie notes that despite many people claiming recent pressures are seasonal, waiting lists are in fact at an all time high, with nearly 10% of patients in April waiting more than the recommended 18 weeks. Observing that an ageing population and endemic health problems will undoubtedly add increasing pressures on to the NHS system, Mr Gillespie also says that budget shortfalls are also to blame.

Interestingly, he explains that the fear of performing extra operations because they cause additional financial strain is wrong. “It costs money to keep patients holding on for surgery, placing extra administrative strains on hospital staff and discomfort and stress to the patient. Hospitals need to recognise that an upfront investment to treat patients faster could lead to a significant and recurring cost improvement in the longer term.”

Waiting too long

Mr Gillespie also blames drastic NHS restructuring for knocking the confidence of NHS workers, meaning they aren’t as prepared to try innovative methods to bring down waiting list times. Instead, Mr Gillespie advocates a more local approach in tackling the problem, agreeing with NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.

“The majority of NHS resource is locked in centralised hospitals, which have very little spare capacity to respond to varying patient demand. By using the funding to create or improve local facilities, we will deliver care where patients want it most in a cost effective and efficient way, bringing down waiting lists for good. NHS trusts should aim for a flexible network of permanent and temporary facilities, with extra capacity deployed alongside a core facility as need arises,” he explained.

Mentioning the success of the NHS breast screening scheme as an example, he speaks about bringing care closer to patients to improve their experience. “Leaders need to be willing to embrace a more flexible approach to working and go beyond what is familiar to find a solution to the challenges we face,” he concludes.

Do you agree?