NHS teams are working harder than ever, but waiting lists are growing, the workforce is increasingly burnt out, and cost-cutting is impacting all areas. Yet productivity targets remain the same.

Economists tend to argue that there are several key factors which drive increased productivity. These are: improving skills in the workforce, capital investment and innovation.

For the NHS, efforts to increase productivity have largely focused on increasing the front-line workforce, as demonstrated in the NHS Workforce Plan. But this must be combined with the right funding to enable true innovation and investment in the technologies that will make a tangible difference for staff.

The NHS is also focusing on a number of other measures, such as artificial intelligence, histopathology automation, at home and point of care testing, intelligent scheduling, virtual imaging and maximising technology to augment people’s capabilities. But we are yet to fully see the impact of these initiatives.

At Philips, we recognise the challenges that the NHS is up against. But we also see the opportunities to work together to solve them; driving transformation that will change the way we deliver care in a positive way.

That’s why we focus on creating true partnerships with our customers to support productivity improvements and enable their teams to perform at their best. Below, I’ll cover four core productivity levers – explaining how partnerships can support hospitals to create real impact.

Enhancing skills in the workforce

Technology can play a fundamental role in supporting the NHS workforce, helping staff to reach new potential. After all, investing in new technologies that are reliable can help enhance and augment staff skillsets, giving them the tools they need to do their job more efficiently.

Remote solutions are proving to be useful here, offering staff support and training in real-time. This is especially important as with more patients, and more digital technologies at more locations, there is an increasing need to enable connectivity and collaboration between teams. These collaborative tools allow organisations to extend their team without expanding it, enabling clinicians to share screens with more experienced colleagues outside of the room for further support in the workplace and improved patient safety.

In addition, AI tools can prioritise workload and support decision-making, freeing up time for clinicians to focus on development areas, while also allowing more time to focus on patient care. CT Smart Workflow technology is one example where AI is used to support radiographers with patient set-up, reducing and simplifying the number of steps needed for preparation and allowing them more time to focus on patient care, ultimately contributing to staff satisfaction and retention.

There’s a role for partners to play in supporting the NHS to overcome challenges, with practical, people-focused solutions that help you begin to connect teams in new ways, improving access to care, while reducing the burden on staff. Strategic partnerships can help trusts to integrate new technologies without straining resources, giving NHS teams more time to focus on patient care and ensuring the right mix of skill sets across the workforce – from front-line staff to leadership teams.

Innovative solutions to overcome lack of capital

We know there can be barriers to accessing such innovative technologies. Being at the forefront of healthcare requires more and more expense, and more innovative ways to obtain the technology and integrate the services needed to improve patient lives and lower the cost of care.

That’s why we work with our customers to find unique solutions for the challenges they’re facing. We see finance as a strategic solution within a partnership and can tailor financing solutions around the needs and situation of our customers – helping them access cutting-edge medical technology, without the need for significant upfront capital cost.

For example, financing, as part of a partnership, supports predictability of cashflows for equipment replacement plans. When working with our partners, we can help alleviate pressures and support them to gain efficiencies by avoiding individual financing tenders, management of multiple lease terms, consolidation and management of financing rates and end of term requirements.

Opening up discussions around financing also enables more innovative solutions that can help boost healthcare productivity, support NHS organisations to spend less in terms of capital assets, reduce their capital balance sheet exposure, and recoup VAT for supplier-led service provision.

Driving value through innovation

But what do these innovative solutions look like? We know the NHS is facing many challenges, and limited resources make it difficult to see the opportunities for improvement. The innovation landscape in and around the NHS remains complicated, with multiple agencies and entities holding different roles and responsibilities.

National bodies have improved the speed at which they can license and approve new products, but local uptake continues to be sporadic and slow for many novel products and interventions which require the transformation of care pathways and practices. This means a multi-year planning horizon is needed to secure funding and align the different moving parts of a trust or ICS to ensure they’re ready for when a product meets NICE approval. It’s complex.

At Philips, many of our innovative solutions form part of accepted medical equipment, making it easier for healthcare professionals to access the tools they need and offer effective treatment. This is why partnerships between the public and private sector are so important, providing ways to improve processes and enhance productivity.

When working with our customers, we prioritise opportunities for innovation. We bring a wide range of integrated services and solutions, as well as clinical and operational expertise to the partnership across radiology, cardiology, oncology, critical care, as well as diagnostic informatics, including enterprise imaging, cardiology and pathology.

Implementation of service and operational improvement measures

In partnerships, we also identify opportunities to streamline workflows, enhance clinical efficacy and outcomes, better manage technology and total contract costs, and hence drive operational excellence and value.

We achieve this by implementing service and operational improvement measures; completing the first transformation for our customer, the next one with them, and we then leave them with the skills to do subsequent transformations themselves. So, not only are we providing technologies that can enhance their skillsets, we’re also providing them with the skillsets needed to drive efficiencies forward.

We’ve got some brilliant of examples of this in practice. Our work with Leeds Teaching Hospitals’ Cardio Respiratory Service Unit saw us run a joint service improvement project to address the challenges of increasing demand and patient waiting times. As a result of our work with staff in the department, first-case on-time starts in the cath labs increased by 40 per cent, and patient throughput by 20 per cent.

Partnering for success

In the UK and Ireland, healthcare leaders recognise that they need to transform the way that care is delivered in order to overcome multiple challenges and drive efficiencies in their hospitals.

But they can’t do this alone. Now, more than ever, flexibility and a robust partner network are necessary to navigate through healthcare’s evolution – supporting leaders with productivity, financial solutions and shared accountability.

With a Philips strategic partnership, our customers challenges become our challenges. Through true collaboration, we solve them. Get in touch with our Solutions team to find out more.