Credit where credit’s due

by Alex Gild

01 February 2018

Let’s recognise the efforts of NHS staff in meeting winter pressures with increased commitment

January saw the NHS continue to suffer an escalation of winter pressure against already stretched workforce and service capacity.

This was undeniably a news story, but, unsurprisingly, the media’s focus was almost entirely negative – focusing on policy and the overarching finances. More balanced coverage might have also reflected on the incredible commitment, dedication and resilience of our frontline clinical colleagues. They have often worked at their limit to keep services running and as safe as possible for patients.

People are saying they have not seen pressure like this on the NHS before. That may be true. But as before when times have been tough, NHS staff have responded with remarkable levels of discretionary effort. This dedication to keeping patients safe must not go without mention. And the burden many of our clinical colleagues feel in relation to the quality of care that can be provided must be a shared concern for us all – and one that needs a sustainable solution.

As we move forward, we must positively reinforce communication and support with our clinical colleagues and back them where we can with practical action to relieve the burden.

We can do this by ensuring we are aligned and working together effectively for patients in our systems. We must act as one community of partners, thinking innovatively and without barriers about how we can improve flow, maintain safety and deliver the best possible care for patients.

Support can be given wherever we work. This could be within our own finance teams, by increasing awareness of what our clinical teams are dealing with and helping unblock issues that get in the way of delivering great patient care. You will find other ways too.

Hopefully the pressure will ease as the season changes, because even with rigorous planning, normal operation of the NHS has been seriously challenged already this winter. Moving from one crisis to the next is not what the public should expect from our NHS.

Financial challenges in the NHS typically lead to calls for some form of long-term review and the  current crisis is no different. While demands for such a review to be cross-party may be unrealistic, there is a real need to cast our eyes forward to ensure our health and care system remains able to deliver the highest quality care in a sustainable way.

Real issues need to be discussed about what should be provided, who should pay and how services are funded. Strategic options are needed and have been for some time. HFMA is keen to play its part in any such review and is planning a series of forward looking analyses to contribute to the debate.  We will want your input and views on this important piece of work to help inform policy and decision makers.

Bringing our focus back to 2018, Bob Alexander at his last HFMA annual conference as NHS Improvement deputy chief executive, set a pragmatic target –  deliver our plans overall as an NHS group so we are in the strongest position possible for 2018/19. That would be a fantastic achievement and would provide us with a solid foundation to move forward.

We need to maintain a shared constancy of purpose to do the best we can for patients as a community of partners. And we must do everything we can to support and sustain our frontline clinical colleagues. Then together we can help shape a brighter future for our NHS.

This blog appeared as a comment in the February 2018 issue of Healthcare Finance.