Should hospitals become chains?

Hospital ward image

‘Foundation groups’ could be the norm in five years time

Sir David Dalton, head of a government review, has revealed that the NHS could be developing ‘hospital groups’ within the next five years.

Studying potential organisation forms for health services, the half completed review believes that chains could help create new positions for management among other benefits. Titled ‘The Dalton review’, the team are examining the scope for extending the use of novel organisational forms in the provider sector. Models under the spotlight include non-geographically contiguous chains or providers of services, management franchises, federations, joint ventures and social enterprises.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal, Sir Dalton said “If organisations feel this is right for them and they look at the evidence and decide what it is they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it differently, having a ‘foundation group’ approach…may provide solutions in some areas.”

New solutions

“If people see the benefits in it, and those benefits outweigh the risks, I can see there will be a number of organisations that will be attracted to grow and develop their successful model, and to have that spread and develop relationships with other organisations to form a group. I can see that’s entirely plausible,” he continued.

Speaking about potential new job roles, Sir Dalton explains “I think that a group may make better use of talented people if they were managing directors and having operational responsibility for organisations within a group.” Although the review is not yet finished, the potential benefits of standardisation and a chain format have been found to be appealing, as the review members travel across Europe to see how chains operate there. “We’re getting a much deeper understanding that there are other healthcare systems in Europe and…Asia that are able to demonstrate there are substantial benefits accruing to them as a consequence of standardisation,” he said.

One aspect of this is raising standards in healthcare, with Sir Dalton saying “We can also see they have a view on the standards that should be found in all of their hospitals or operating areas, and they will standardise their care pathways to achieve those.” 

Do you think hospital chains would be beneficial in the UK?