With special guests:
Alex Davies, Associate Director, Higginson Strategy
Baroness Ilora Finlay, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health
Mr Richard Kerr, Chair of the Commission on the Future of Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons of England
Dr Adrian Boyle, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine
Professor David Peters, Editor in Chief of the Journal of Holistic Healthcare
Alex Davies kicked off the conversation, highlighting the enormous strain coronavirus and rising costs have put on the healthcare sector, even as the pandemic has reinforced the NHS as the UK’s most critical public institution. He asked the panellists what they thought the future had in store for the healthcare sector.
Dr Adrian Boyle began by highlighting how, even prior to the pandemic, the NHS was under pressure from a reduced number of beds. “Compared to December last year, there are 12,000 less beds in active service. We urgently need an extra 18,000 – 20,000 beds to increase capacity in our hospitals and look after our patients”.
Mr Richard Kerr agreed with Adrian’s point. He advanced it, claiming that for Healthcare to have better patient outcomes it needed to better embrace technology, particularly within surgery. “We have the ability to move to much more personalised care. Technologies like minimal invasive surgery, big data, and virtual reality all have a huge role to play in the future of healthcare”.
Professor David Peters expressed concern that unless we can tackle staff shortages within the NHS, it is facing a fundamentally unsustainable future. “There is a steep decline in nursing and doctor morale, front line burn-out, a shortage of doctors and nurses, and GP overload and early retirement. This must be addressed.”
Baroness Finlay, said the UK must also focus on the causes of bad health such as obesity and alcohol dependence to alleviate the pressure on the NHS. She also argues that we need to tackle waste in the healthcare sector. “We’ve got to get to recyclable equipment within the NHS and decrease disposal wastage. If we don’t look after the environment, we wont even have a world to live in”.
The conversation moved on to discussing the importance of social care. Adrian and Baroness Finlay, and David all agreed that better social care was required so that more people can be treated at home, thus taking pressure of hospitals. This allows for a more localised and personalised type of care.
While discussing outsourcing, the panel agreed there needed to be better regulation. Baroness Finlay argued that outsourcing often puts continuity of care at risk, while Richard made the point that a personal relationship between a surgeon and patient is critical. He said: “For me, to operate on a patient that I have never seen, and haven’t discussed the procedure with, is something I would never do.”
Drawing the conversation to a conclusion, Alex Davies said an emerging theme had been that the future of healthcare is not just about increased capacity, not just about churning people through the system, but about having the space to build relationships and care for patients as people.
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