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Covid-19 – Beyond the immediate crisis

This article was first published on Building Better Healthcare | Read it now


If there is one agreed fact regarding COVID-19 it is that the NHS has changed and will continue to change.

There is consensus among both clinical and administrative staff that many of the innovations fast-tracked to cope with the pandemic, from staff empowerment to data sharing, should be safely adopted wherever possible.

For trust boards, however, the challenge now is to re-imagine and redefine service models while preparing for subsequent waves of pandemic, managing the significant demand backlog and ensuring the safety of both staff and patients.


With analysis from a recent freedom of information request estimating NHS waiting lists of 15.3 million, the pressure is certainly on to ramp up appointments and treatment wherever possible.


But how can trusts balance demand with available capacity? Determine how best to optimise resources across not just one, but multiple, hospitals within an area? And segregate and track COVID and non-COVID patients and staff to ensure safety?

Embrace positive change

The speed with which the NHS transformed service delivery during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was extraordinary. This is testament to the quality and commitment of individuals throughout the health service, many of whom moved to new locations, working with new colleagues and unfamiliar equipment and processes.

As we enter the next phase and begin to restart services that were suspended, trusts are exploring how best to resume elective programmes and cancer treatments under the restrictions presented by COVID-19 – but also with a very-clear objective to capture the best of the innovations achieved over the past few months.

With analysis from a recent freedom of information request estimating NHS waiting lists of 15.3 million, the pressure is certainly on to ramp up appointments and treatment wherever possible.

Yet, without a quick and reliable test, every aspect of care delivery is slowed and constrained.

It must be assumed that all patients requiring emergency care are COVID-19 positive, for example, meaning additional delays due to the requirement for both PPE at all times, as well as the cleaning of beds, imaging equipment, and operating theatres between patients.

Even moving patients around a hospital becomes more complex because, as stated in a recent Nuffield Science discussion document: ‘The building and design of many English hospitals makes them unprepared for the kind of infection control needed in the coming months’.


This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for positive change; a chance to rethink healthcare delivery, overcome service fragmentation, and deliver patient services that truly reflect demands.


And yet there is also growing consensus that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for positive change; a chance to rethink healthcare delivery, overcome service fragmentation, and deliver patient services that truly reflect demands.

Covid-19 – Beyond the immediate crisis