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The NHS rose to the challenge of Covid, but its next test may be even harder

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Over the past year, our NHS has risen to the challenges of the pandemic. But it’s been a very close-run thing. There have been well-publicised difficulties such as the shortage of ventilators, ICU beds and PPE, and the physical and staffing capacity of the health service has been strained to breaking point.

GPs have managed the risks to patients who have been unable to receive specialist care. We now face a growing backlog of postponed treatments and emerging mental health issues. So if we were to imagine a post-Covid NHS, toughened by the challenges of the pandemic but better prepared for the future, what would it look like?

To ensure the health service is capable of meeting the challenges it will face in the next decade and beyond, it will require both structural and local reforms. The word “reform” triggers unease among many NHS professionals, who have been subject to numerous reorganisations over the years and have witnessed efforts being diverted into reforms at the expense of improving patient care. While some of the changes in the recent NHS white paper seem sensible, their effectiveness will depend on the final detail.

To ensure the focus remains on patients, all policy reforms and local changes should convincingly pass at least one of these six tests:

  • Will they reduce demand on the NHS by preventing disease or improving wellbeing?
  • Will they speed up the time between a patient seeking help and receiving treatment?
  • Will they enhance patient safety before, during or after treatment?
  • Will they enable better clinical outcomes?
  • Will they provide better taxpayer value?
  • And will they reduce the inequality of access that has resulted in some groups receiving less care than others?

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Source: The Guardian, 18 February 2021

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