11th February 2022
How the role of community healthcare teams is more crucial than ever, in supporting the NHS meet its current challenges
In a statement to parliament earlier this week, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid outlined a new NHS Delivery Plan for tackling the ever-mounting elective care backlog. According to the latest figures, a staggering 6 million people in England are waiting for routine elective care procedures, 300,000 of whom have been waiting for longer than a year.
The UK government has already earmarked £2 billion towards the recovery of elective services, in addition to £8 billion more, to be staggered over the next three years. The NHS is also set to receive a further £6 billion towards new beds, equipment, and technology as part of the recovery plan. But it’s not just a question of cash.
Patient flow – that is, the movement of patients through healthcare services and more specifically, the ability to safely discharge patients home from primary healthcare facilities – is an important part of the picture. Investment in community healthcare is essential to free up valuable hospital beds, improve patient flow and support the healthcare system at every level. For the NHS to reduce backlogs in a meaningful way, it’s not enough to simply funnel funding into elective services: we need to look more broadly at the entire healthcare system and shift the focus to a community setting, where community healthcare services can provide much-needed support to patients in their own homes.
And once elective care procedures have been carried out – from hip replacements to cataract surgery, knee operations and hernia repair – community healthcare teams are vital to patient recovery: preventing readmissions ensuring that patients receive the very best care available, in their own homes or care homes.
Supporting post-op patients in the community is nothing new: community teams have been a vital part of NHS services for many years. But right now, the role of community health (and social care) teams is more crucial than ever, because the challenges faced by the NHS are greater than they have ever been.
But with many community care teams understaffed and overworked, efficiency is of paramount importance.
Now, more than ever, it’s essential that we provide community nursing teams with the funding, support, and technology they need to work efficiently. Not only will this improve the experience for community nurses themselves, but it will also inevitably improve patient outcomes.
Investing in technology that meets the needs of frontline clinicians as well as system leaders, can reduce the administrative burden on healthcare staff, freeing up time to care and improving job satisfaction for community nurses.
By helping community teams to manage vulnerable patients in the community, the NHS will undoubtedly see marked improvements in hospital flow, early discharge from primary care and a reduction in readmissions.