What might the new normal be for our healthcare services?
As Chairman of the London Consultants’ Association I am keenly aware of the struggles my colleagues are facing as they are confronted with one of the biggest medical challenges in living memory. I am also immensely proud of the way in which the private sector and the NHS are working so closely together at this time.
Co-operation between these two sectors has always existed but it’s likely that we have learned how to enhance this for the future in order to ensure that the NHS and private sector continue to work in a complementary and seamless manner for the benefit of all patients.
What is becoming increasingly obvious is that this pandemic has already altered the healthcare sector enormously and the continued effect it will have on the NHS and the private sector will be long reaching and unprecedented.
Adopting new ways of working
All pandemics in history have been followed by a new order and, like many businesses, doctors working in both private practice and the NHS have seen the way in which they previously worked virtually swept away overnight because of COVID-19.
First and foremost, this has resulted in many having to adopt and adapt to using technology which supports virtual consultations.
Doctors across the UK are now working out the best way in which to support their patients using the technologies which underpin this. E-bookings and e-checkouts are almost certainly speeding up the process for some Practices and virtual meetings between multi-disciplinary teams have already proved their worth within the private sector.
However, early feedback suggests that lengthy virtual clinics are challenging and perhaps less than satisfactory for both the consultants and their patients, particularly with new patients. So this is an area where a new approach is required.
The possible knock on effect on medical insurance
Of course, doctors are not the only ones affected, the two other major pillars in private practice - the providers and the insurers - will also need to adapt their approaches if they are to thrive (or indeed survive) within this new order.
The London Consultants’ Association believes that corporate medical insurance policies will be dropped by many small and mid-sized companies as they struggle to make themselves profitable again. This, combined with the inevitable increase in NHS waiting lists, will undoubtedly result in a rise in self-pay patients.
How we will have to move forward?
New and innovative business models are likely to be the order of the day for those delivering health services and, of course, these must continue to maintain the ethos of professional integrity, self-regulation and the high professional standards of the GMC, Royal Colleges and government-registered organisations
Given that these will be developing in a changing and untested environment, they will have to be supported by the mentoring, training, advice and regulation by overarching organisations. I am proud to say that the LCA is already planning a programme to support this and am confident our members will grasp the mettle of what is likely to be a mixture of daunting prospect and exciting challenge within the setting of an exacting national agenda.
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