5 November 2018
The NHS might have marked its 70th birthday in July, but there’s no denying there’s been little cause for celebration in recent years. In fact, it’s widely acknowledged that the UK’s healthcare system is in a state of crisis, as it battles a lack of staff, financially stretched services, and a record demand for care.
As it stands, the NHS in England alone deals with more than 1.4 million patients every 24 hours. With the UK population expected to reach 69 million by 2024, the number of people relying on these vital services is only set to increase. In fact, research from The King’s Fund shows that rising demand is already resulting in increased hospital activity across all areas, whether that’s A&E attendances, referrals to outpatient services, or elective admissions.
In light of this, both citizens and healthcare employees alike eagerly anticipated the most recent Autumn Budget. Many hoped for Chancellor Philip Hammond to provide a much-needed boost to NHS coffers – and during a speech that some have dubbed ‘more Sunshine Phil, than Spreadsheet Phil’, the Chancellor didn’t leave the NHS empty-handed.
What does the Autumn Budget mean for the NHS?
During the Budget speech, the Chancellor announced that he was proud to be making an ‘extraordinary commitment to funding our NHS’. The exact nature of this commitment included an extra £20.5billion for the service over the next five years, with £2billion set aside specifically for mental health care – including emergency centres, ambulances and 24-hour crisis hotlines.
All of which sounds like good news for the NHS. But within days of the announcement – as ever – conflicting reports emerged about exactly how this budget will be spent. More concerning was the revelation that some services, including the funds to build new premises and buy equipment, will actually be cut by £1billion. Only time will tell how the budget is actually spent, but this does raise questions for IT decision makers in the NHS, who could find themselves having to stretch their budgets even further.
Where can the NHS make much-needed savings?
Robust, modern infrastructure is vital for all organisations. But large, complex and multi-site organisations like the NHS rely on communications infrastructure, so savings can’t be made by neglecting this area. Especially given that many of the Chancellor’s proposals, like increasing capacity for mental health emergency call lines, rest on having strong telephony services in place.
Investing in SIP-based telephony is one option that could help the NHS carefully manage its budgets. In addition to delivering more reliable connectivity than traditional ISDN, SIP trunking can help organisations save up to 50% on line rentals and 25% on call costs. Which, in organisations as large as the average NHS trust, could represent a significant saving. SIP trunking can also offer free internal calls, which is incredibly valuable for large, multi-site organisations like the NHS.
SIP trunking is also a highly resilient telephony option, which is vital for any organisation which needs to ensure it can deliver crisis services around the clock. Features like built-in business continuity means calls can rerouted quickly during an emergency and call services can always be maintained.
Supporting the day-to-day success of the NHS
It’s too early to say exactly how the promised funding will be shared out – it might be that infrastructure and equipment does receive the necessary funding, helping the NHS to react to the increasing demands placed upon it. But should budgets for premises and equipment be cut, it’ll be more important than ever before for the NHS to have cost-effective platforms in place.
Telephony services are an obvious place to start, so NHS decision makers should think carefully about their options when it comes to supporting both day-to-day running and the new services the Government hopes to deliver. In doing so, decision makers can help to provide the foundations for the health service to thrive in the digital age – a cause which everybody, from employees to end-users, can certainly get behind.