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Integrated Care Systems by default – NHS capacity management in the next phase of Covid-19

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Outpatient and elective services that were effectively suspended back in March are now under growing pressure to catch back up. There are 4.2 million patients already on the waiting list for elective operations, which could reportedly reach 10 million by the end of the year. Yet hospitals will need to run at reduced occupancy to allow for Covid-19 social distancing and periods of staff self-isolation. Restoring services and managing capacity and demand over the next 6-12 months could be one of the biggest challenges the NHS has ever faced. 

However, one thing the Coronvirus has done in the NHS and social care, is force through transformation much more rapidly than has been possible before. This is the time to capitalise on the Covid-19 response so far to ensure the health and care system is fit for purpose in the long-term and works for patient populations at a health-economy level.

How can NHS providers and commissioners start work now to support this ‘reset’ of the health system and navigate the latest challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic? We have set out three steps below:

1. Take a data-led approach to local NHS demand

Re-opening of NHS services, the management of elective waiting lists and the future contracting of services requires an evidence-driven, data-focused approach. Without strong and relevant data, system-wide, integrated care decisions cannot be made effectively.

2. Adopt local, regionalised capacity planning and coordination

There is no doubt that local health systems will have to work together to manage both Covid-19 treatment/recovery and general NHS demand. Capacity across providers (NHS health and social care as well as independent hospitals) in an area will need to be coordinated and managed centrally to maximise efficiency. Integrated care systems (ICS) will also need to rationalise care pathways and maximise virtual working.

3. Set a population-based strategy

ICS will be more important than ever in understanding population-based budgets for future services. Robust and relevant data can help providers and commissioners work together to set activity-based plans and forecast and contract future services in this new landscape.

For more information about how Monmouth are supporting NHS providers and commissioners with Covid-19 analytics, ICS strategy and health economy planning contact Jason Nerval, jason.nerval@monmouthpartners.com, 07709773859.