"The post-pandemic backlog in elective care means clinicians are busier than ever, leading to workforce shortages across both the NHS and the independent sectors." - Sarah Taylor, Head of Specialist and Practitioner Relations
Clinicians are in high demand.
During the pandemic, routine surgery and diagnostics, both privately and in the NHS, were stalled. This wasn’t just because facilities closed, but also because patients were reluctant to present. This led to a backlog in both sectors, across all specialisms.
More than 6m people are waiting for elective NHS treatment right now.1 Dr Aubrey Bristow, consultant anaesthetist and director at the Phoenix Hospital Group, told the LaingBuisson Private Healthcare Summit in March that, where there were specialist shortages, ‘the NHS may have the first call and be the preferred environment of consultants’.2
However, the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) reports that specialists have returned to work in the private sector, although in slightly lower numbers than pre-pandemic.3 We know from our own experience in sourcing that some specialisms, such as orthopaedics, psychiatry and dermatology, may feel particularly squeezed.
Here’s where private healthcare proves its value.
Even with a measurable shortage of UK specialists and other clinical staff, the favourable wait time ratio in private healthcare, against the NHS, has held up.4 It means some members may wait a little longer than before COVID. But this will always be less than on the NHS. And a number of AXA Health teams – Personal Advisers, Fast Track, nurse case managers, Network Exemption – are on hand to help source care where there’s a gap.
We’re seeing claims rising, with an emphasis on diagnostics, which means we’re already helping to tackle the UK backlog in elective care.4
PHIN figures3 also show that specialists working privately are more productive than pre-pandemic, and our own research shows more than one in three (35%) have ‘introduced more evening and weekend slots to accommodate their private patients’. A third also report that ‘remote consultations have become the norm’.5
One of AXA Health’s strategies is to become a ‘digital first’ company. We understand the value of remote consulting to this strategy, and we’re already working with clinicians to see which specialisms could benefit from increasing capacity.
We’re also working with the clinical profession to review remuneration for consultations and complex treatment in certain specialisms. We recognise the value of multi-disciplinary teams, which unite healthcare practitioners of all levels, sharing the tasks needed to deliver healthcare efficiently. Specialist time would be freed up, for example, if they had a nurse case practitioner in their team who can prescribe.
We also believe independent specialists and hospitals will help address the challenge. We see specialists grouping together with a view to creating more mixed and efficient models of healthcare, with practitioners coming ‘on stream’ into the private sector when demand arises. We see private hospitals increasing their capacity. And the rise in the ‘employed model’ at newer hospitals in our network also gives certainty for private practitioners on overheads and remuneration, encouraging them to pursue private practice.
4) AXA Health Provider Management Dashboard, April 2022
5) AXA Health Specialist Feedback 2022, May 2022