NHS ‘business as usual’ ended with the outbreak of Covid-19. Outpatient and elective services were cut back or even suspended in March, as focus shifted to managing the virus.
Interruptions to treatments mean an estimated 10 million people could be on NHS waiting lists for operations by the end of the year, according to reports. Restoring services and managing capacity and demand could be one of the biggest challenges the NHS has ever faced as hospitals continue to run at reduced occupancy. Supporting a systemwide, integrated and population-led approach is required for the next non-emergency response phase.
Coronavirus has expedited other changes too, including the transformation of outpatient services to technology-focused models of care. The NHS Long Term Plan, 2018 pledged to reduce the 400 million face-to-face appointments provided by GP practices and hospital outpatients each year by one-third. Covid-19 social distancing has already converted many outpatient appointments to digital ones. Around 6,000 video appointments are taking place per day across health organisations. Now is the time to capitalise on patients’ new expectations to embed a more virtual-led approach into both primary and secondary care. But all these changes have important implications for cyber security and healthcare data regulations.
Implications on clinical coding cannot be ignored either. The shift of non-clinical workers out of hospital buildings has forced a move to remote clinical coding and created associated technology and data privacy implications for Trusts. Not only that, but the likely continuation of block contracts in the medium term and the likelihood of new payment models longer term will have an impact on the payment by results (PbR) focus of current NHS clinical coding.
We have explored each of these areas in more detail and set out some practical thoughts on how to support the NHS in a post-Covid-19 emergency phase. You can read more about these three themes below: