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Could going digital take the pressure off staff and save the future of the NHS?

The NHS has always been a pillar of strength, trust and reliability in our community. Unfortunately, the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic hit and the NHS found itself under an immense strain of backlog with the waiting list for elective care, at the highest level since the NHS was founded in 1948. Since December 2019, this waiting list has grown 30% in length from 4.4 million to 5.6 million patients waiting for elective care. This overwhelming backlog has put enormous pressure on those who work on the frontline. The NHS employs 1.3 million members of staff who have been working resiliently through this global pandemic, which in return has left healthcare professionals overwhelmed and potentially facing burnout. The NHS Confederation, state that because of the impact this has had on NHS staff and what they have experienced during the pandemic in a way not many people can relate to or imagine, the NHS risks losing thousands of nurses, doctors and other front line workers in the long term if they are not given time and space to recover from the global pandemic. Research from The University of Manchester has also shown that NHS staff are experiencing significant levels of moral unjust as they are having to deliver a poorer standard of care than they are used to. To add further pressures to NHS staff, they face the daunting task of trying to manage the cohort of backlog patients who are still awaiting for their treatments and procedures to take place. Especially, elective care which has been hit the hardest staff burnout is exacerbated by the pressure to deliver backlog care.

A recent survey conducted by the NHS titled “Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care showed 4 in 10 NHS workers report they feel unwell as a result of their job and a staggering 46.4% of staff saying that they had gone to work, despite knowing they were not feeling well enough, to perform their duties correctly-putting themselves, patients and the NHS at risk. In a December 2020 interview, speaking about the current state of the NHS in relation to Coronavirus with The Guardian, Clinical Director of Critical Care, Richard Breeze, at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said “The situation here is bad and getting worse”. Breeze explained that the hospital tried to carry on business as usual [during the height of the pandemic] for non-urgent patients to try and help the backlog but this has now come to an end and they are having to switch their focus entirely towards COVID-19, which is proving to be a difficult change for their members of staff. In an NHS staff survey, many members of staff were found to quit their jobs because they are tired of spending too much time at work and not enough time with their families with some staff found to be putting in extra hours, some doing as much as 11 hours a week of unpaid overtime. In an interview with The Guardian GP Dr Becks Fisher said “we’ve lost any concept of routine hours. You are just here until all the work is done”. There has been an increase of 167% of doctors resigning from their jobs in the NHS for a better work-life balance.

The NHS has recognised the need to use technology to help transform the service and have created the Digital Transformation NHS Long Term Plan. To help make the jobs of front line workers easier and more efficient, reducing staff burnout, as well as making care and advice easily accessible to the public and to create connected computer systems that give staff the most up to date patient history and evidence they might need to make clear and concise decisions for patients. At Open Medical, we have created Pathpoint SurgiCare, which is a platform that can promote the continuous improvement for patient care and seamlessly connect surgical teams, preoperative assessments, theatre schedulers and anaesthetic teams with an end-to-end solution to help tackle the surgical elective backlog. The feedback from the clinicians already using it has been invaluable. Dorota Naumiuk, Operations Director at Open Medical explains that SurgiCare is the solution to elective backlog as it centralises and links patient pathways from the waiting list to the pre-assessment, procedure and even to post-op. Pathpoint SurgiCare provides Trusts with a robust solution to effectively manage the elective backlog, by removing the use of physical paper waiting list cards enabling enhanced visibility and scheduling functionality, overall has a far greater positive impact on the patient's journey.


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