Win over the NHS by helping to solve the spiralling workload crisis

For Pharma, MedTech and Device companies, there’s a simple message at the moment – if you can provide solutions that help the NHS solve its workload crisis, then you’ve got a much better chance of being listened to.

This point was hammered home by the publication earlier this month of these statistics, which show GP activity is well above pre-pandemic levels. They’re actually delivering around four million more appointments per month than they were before Covid. 

It’s also worth noting that – not including the Covid, flu and pneumococcal vaccines routinely delivered at this time of year – there were more than 31.4 million appointments delivered across general practice in November last year. That makes it the busiest November on record, with more than one million people being seen in general practice every single day.

And yet many people are still complaining that they can’t get access to their GP.

Innovation is the key to emptying beds 

From an industry perspective, there’s plenty that can be taken from this. On a basic level, the NHS has too much work on its hands, and they don’t have the people to carry out that work.

What general practice and the NHS as a whole is therefore screaming out for is innovation –  industry-led solutions that can help improve the patient outcome. As a result, this could mean fewer unnecessary appointments, fewer unnecessary referrals to hospital and of course, the big one – fewer unnecessary non-elective admissions to hospital. You can read more of my thoughts on this topic here.

In the first week back in January, I met an Integrated Care Board commissioner who told me their top priority right now is to work with the hospital to find a way to reduce the non-elective admissions. 

That was simply because they had no empty beds, it was taking, on average, three days for a patient that had come in through A&E needing admission to actually be admitted. They advised it’s not safe – and nor is having patients on trolleys all over A&E (which was also happening), but they had no readily available solution.

Leave the product to one side, focus on the problem 

So innovation is the key to solving the workload crisis as well as taking a prevention-led approach to healthcare – something I’ll talk about further throughout the year ahead.

But, for now, I would urge Pharma, MedTech and Devices companies to look at what they’re doing and the solutions they can provide which demonstrate cost-effectiveness and value for money.

The product needs to be parked to one side, and the problem that industry can solve needs to be shifted to centre stage. We have also got to keep in mind that it can’t just be a race to the bottom on price, it has to be about improving the patient outcome because if we don’t do that, the patients will continue to come. 

What we’re essentially looking for is industry to provide a better overall solution. For example, you might be able to demonstrate less waste, quicker results, fewer repeat diagnostic tests, shared results between primary care and secondary care or you could deliver out-of-hospital care, closer to home.

If we focus on improving the patient outcome, we avoid the risk of simply focusing on one step in a pathway, rather than realising that we could demonstrate and rethink the delivery of a whole pathway. 

Capacity is finite

It’s absolutely crucial to take an end-to-end pathway and look at the complete pathway acquisition cost rather than at individual steps or bits of a pathway.

That’s because capacity in primary and secondary care is finite. In simple terms, if we look at general practice in the days when it was all face-to-face appointments routinely, a session would be 3.5 hours of 10-minute appointments. That’s 21 patients maximum. If it’s 15-minute appointments that’s 14 patients maximum.

So you can see capacity is finite – anything Pharma delivers has to be about improving the patient outcome so they don’t need as many appointments. You aren’t increasing capacity, you’re changing the type of patient that is seen in the capacity available. 

Early diagnosis makes the patient and the NHS better

In a later newsletter, I’ll talk about something I’m seeing quite a bit at the moment, which is hospitals subcontracting work to general practice. Now, that probably sounds like an alien concept, but when I come back to this topic, I am going to show why it’s a really good idea.

Early and correct diagnosis leading to early and correct treatment leads to the best possible outcome for the patient. Otherwise, the patient can’t get access to their diagnosis because they are on a long hospital waiting list which means they consume numerous primary care appointments.

To summarise, general practice and the wider NHS is currently drowning in workload, so any approach Pharma, MedTech or Devices firms can make has to show it can either reduce the workload, increase the capacity within the team or do something dramatically innovative that is going to radically change the outcome for patients and general practice as a whole.

Remember – they are still working well above pre-pandemic levels, and it’s still not enough to meet the demand. 

Scott McKenzie helps pharmaceutical, medical technology and appliance firms increase revenue by getting their products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways Scott can help. Scott has doubled revenue for his clients and is happy to share these processes with you too.