At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last week, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock outlined his plans for supporting the NHS this winter and beyond, highlighting the benefits of digital patient flow.
In his speech, Mr Hancock acknowledged the pressures the NHS endures from winter surges, the aging population and a disjointed social care system. The over-riding theme, therefore, was on relieving these pressures with funding, innovation and reform. In terms of funding, there has been a promise of investment of over £20bn over the next five years and an additional £240m specifically for this winter.
Relieving manual processes
Regarding reform, Hancock talked about the importance of new technology to relieve manual processes: “One of the major reforms we need to see is bringing new technology across the health and care system,” he said. “Of course introducing new technology can be bumpy but the potential benefits are huge.”
The secretary referenced the resource-heavy and time-consuming processes still in place for bed management: “In some hospitals a nurse still goes round with a clip board to find out where beds are in use and where they’re empty. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
And he offered technology as the answer: “Patients get better treatment and it’s so much easier for staff. We’ve got to reform the system so we spend more time on prevention not cure, with more integration between health and social care. I want us to empower people to have more control over their own health too.”
The benefits of digital patient flow
Investing the additional winter funding in patient flow systems will pay huge dividends. Not only does it unlock the many benefits Mr Hancock outlined, it also addresses challenges in a whole-system way. In terms of replacing the old clip board and other manual processes, Patient Flow software provides a much faster, intuitive solution that helps frontline staff to monitor real-time situations, such as bed availability, without physically having to do the rounds. The software can be accessed via interactive whiteboards, PCs and dedicated screens all over the wards, including the TV screens over the beds themselves. Staff can update and then share this information with the wider team.
The system enables senior staff to identify bottlenecks and support the flow of patients safely and efficiently through the hospital, and, with short and longer-term data collection, supports enhanced strategic planning.
ExtraMed Patient Flow delivers cost savings (up to £3.4m per year for an average 500 bed hospital); reduces length of stay and delayed transfer of care; improves patient care by freeing up staff to offer care where it’s needed; empowers patients by providing relevant information; provides greater accuracy and links up care across the patient journey, beyond the hospital walls.
How Luton & Dunstable achieves 98.4% against four-hour A&E target
Hospitals that have deployed ExtraMed to improve efficiency, support their teams and digitise time and resource-intensive processes include Luton & Dunstable University Hospital. Currently ranked third in England & Wales, with 98.4% of people in A&E being seen within the four-hour target time, the Trust turned around its performance. The Trust invested in the ExtraMed Patient Flow solution to digitise a number of key processes in this 650 bedded hospital and saw how the technology was key to supporting the process and culture changes necessary to overhaul its performance.
Marion Collict, then Director or Operations, Risk and Governance, shared her experience with Public Sector Focus magazine earlier this year: “The A&E couldn’t meet its targets unless the rest of the hospital – and beyond into community care, social services and our local authorities – were involved. Taking a holistic view of the whole system – rather than being fixated on just fixing A&E – has been fundamental to our success.”