Kate Woodhead RGN DMS discusses the role of the independent sector in healthcare and whether it could mitigate the extreme pressures in the NHS – both in acute and primary care services.
The independent healthcare sector quietly gets on with its work, while voices proclaim that it signifies ‘privatisation’ of the NHS. In actual fact, there are many services in healthcare which are provided privately or commercially but, generally, when people are asked, they refer to hospital and primary care services.
The private services referred to are optical care, dentistry and community pharmacy. When the NHS is under such a lot of pressure, what is happening in the private sector and is there some capacity for expanding their potential to deliver quality care for acute services? How about the extreme pressure on GPs – is this an area where far more healthcare could be delivered away from the local surgery? There is already an expansion of pharmacy provision, but does this go far enough?
One of the specific issues is that the NHS is such a political football that it is almost untouchable, as far as development and reform is concerned, and is therefore stuck in a huge rut which is too difficult to deal with. Having stated that, there is a huge level of reform already taking place but not specifically to deal with the current issues. The Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), which are starting their work, have an ideal opportunity to design new aspects and providers of clinical care into the system – but will they? It will take a great deal of imagination and careful management to take the pressure away from the NHS, so that some element of recovery can begin to happen after the pandemic.
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