When the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, set out his Autumn Statement, he pledged new funding to support health and social care system recovery.
Where should the money go?
The £3.3 billion additional funding announced for the NHS and adult social care, as well as the promise of a workforce plan covering the next 15 years, was recognition of the significant pressure the NHS is under. Both funding and policy commitments are welcome and will help towards delivering better outcomes for staff and patients.
At Accurx, we believe that this funding needs to be primarily spent on recruiting and retaining NHS staff, as there is a yawning gap between demand for care and NHS capacity. However, the role of simple tech that enables those hard working staff to save time and deliver better care cannot continue to be overlooked.
Staff and patients need to see funding being invested in technology that saves time and enables better communication between staff and to their patients.
Why? Because the lack of ways to quickly and efficiently communicate between services and with patients is a constant pain point faced by people working in, and using, NHS services. It contributes to a lot of the major issues we are seeing today.
On a daily basis, staff waste time jumping between different, often manual, channels to chase referrals and second opinions, and patients feel disconnected from their care providers or have an inconsistent experience when using technology across different parts of the system. GPs, admin staff, nurses and professionals across healthcare are losing time and motivation to these inefficient and fragmented communication systems. It's a challenge that causes unnecessary stress and strain, and hampers the delivery of patient care.
That’s why we want to see some of the Chancellor’s support package dedicated to technology that enables better communication. This will be absolutely critical to sustaining and improving the NHS - just like it was during the pandemic. This kind of technology needs to be seen as a priority, and will help stretched NHS staff do more with their time.
Opportunities for scale and spread: the recovery plans for primary and elective care
A recovery plan for primary care was announced for the new year, while the Elective Recovery Plan continues, though it needs ‘reprofiling’.
We think investing in simple communication technology can contribute to the recovery across all sectors.
First on primary care, which is in the midst of an access crisis. The use of invitational online booking technology across general practice could save huge amounts of admin time and end the miserable patient experience of the 8am phone rush for appointments. Allowing practices to more efficiently triage patients and book them in for appointment should be an important part of the recovery plan, and milestones should be set for the proportion of practices moving to invite online booking.1
Second, on elective recovery, where hospitals can work through their backlogs more quickly by switching over from legacy communication systems of letters and ‘phone tennis’ with patients. By using systems that let them communicate with patients through SMS, email or the NHS App, trusts can be supported to go further, faster, by:
- Validating waiting lists via 2-way messaging2
- Offering Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) pathways with 2-way patient communication that can reduce the need for appointments even further than the traditional PIFU model3
Thousands of staff members using our software across the NHS tell us better, simple communication software can be the difference between their workload feeling unsustainable vs sustainable.
And patients rightly expect to be able to interact with NHS services digitally, and avoid wasting staff time.
The new primary care recovery plan and a re-focused elective recovery plan represent opportunities to spread this technology across the NHS, save staff time and meet patient expectations.
If you'd like to discuss how this can be achieved in greater depth, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Self Book (part of our new Booking Module) has enormous potential to improve GP access and save Practices time. Since launching just eight weeks ago, over 10 million booking links have been sent to patients, demonstrating how useful this solution is for primary care. Find out more here.
- One trust we work with has used simple SMS communication with patients to validate waiting lists, reducing the overall number of patients waiting for care by 5-10%
- Our approach to PIFU involves offering 2-way messaging between patients and their teams, which can resolve problems without the need for a full outpatient appointment detailed in more depth. Find out more here.