Our latest NHS at 70 series takes the pulse, so to speak, of exactly what some of the leading experts in the field of health and technology really feel about the NHS at 70.
Today we hear from Gill Pipkin, a Sustainability and Healthcare Consultant who has been implementing sustainable business practices for over 20 years. Gill’s career has seen her take on a number of high-profile marketing and operational roles in healthcare, manufacturing, business services and IT start-ups. She’s served as Sustainability Lead for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and currently contributes to the Sustainability, Society and Health Research Group at Plymouth University.
Here is what she had to say…
The NHS is much-loved, yet a victim of its own success
“The NHS is a much loved and much respected organisation staffed by extremely dedicated, talented and hardworking professionals,” says Gill. “Yet it is a victim of its own success and now is struggling to cope with increased demand and public expectation. It needs a rethink of its objectives (is it trying to be all things to all people or should it identify clearly what it does and doesn’t provide) and it needs to have the courage to follow this”.
Ditch the bureaucracy and form-filling
“If there was one major change that I would make it would be to get rid of the bureaucracy and form filling – as millions of pounds are being wasted on collecting data that no one uses,” says Gill. “Plus, I would work to change the risk averse mentality – the blame culture that pervades makes staff wary of change which makes introducing new initiatives to improve care difficult and very lengthy. Give staff ownership and responsibility without the threat of sanctions if they fail whilst trying (obviously not where life or quality of life is involved though).
I would also set strict limits on what is and isn’t available on the NHS – emergency situations, life threatening conditions, child health and maternity care would all be covered. Then life-enhancing treatments (joint replacements, fertility treatment, some cosmetic surgery and so on) would be available at a price. The funds available from not making it all free at the point of access could then be used to subsidise lifestyle treatment”.
A nominal £5 fee to see your GP
“I also think a nominal £5 charge to see your GP should be initiated - this would deter those who don’t need to see their GP and free up their time to care for sick patients. A mere £5 isn’t so much that it would deter everyone, and anyone on benefits would be entitled to free care anyway.
I would also provide alternative support via the GP surgery so patients can be diverted to a more appropriate place for their needs. People don’t necessarily always need hospital treatment and more could be done in local surgeries.
Overall, I think we need to change the public perception of healthcare and put the onus back on individuals to take responsibility for their own health and promote preventative care” adds Gill.
Tech can improve records, monitoring, alerts and access to care
Gill agrees that tech and innovation in the NHS plays an increasingly role in all aspects of patient care, noting that technology is needed in improving a range of things, including health records, monitoring, health alerts and access to treatment.
“Tech can help to improve the maintaining and sharing of health records with all who need to have access. Tech advances also mean that more conditions can be monitored constantly without having to attend clinics, with much of this work now able to be done by the patient remotely.
Apps and tech that allow regular health alerts are also becoming much more useful. More apps are becoming available that allow patients to self-diagnose or self-medicate appropriately.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, tech can massively improve access to treatment. In more remote and underdeveloped parts of the world, clinicians can work with specialists many hundreds of miles away via video link. This will enable complex procedures to be undertaken without the specialist having to be present and should lead to improved care and outcomes in these areas.”