Easing the pressure

Paul Gibbons - Westfield Health

Easing the pressure

It’s the nation’s pride and joy, but there’s no denying that the NHS is feeling the pressure as it moves closer to its ambitious savings target of £20 billion by 2015.

And, as a result, the health service that we’ve all come to rely on for easy access to healthcare and treatment has changed.

But according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), the biggest shake-ups could be yet to come.

The report found that the NHS had managed to achieve virtually all of its forecast £5.9 billion of savings in 2011-12, but that the successful start was due to the ‘easiest savings’ being made first.

The report also found that many Trusts had placed tighter restrictions on who can access services with some making patients wait longer for operations such as cataract surgery.

Head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said: “To build on these savings and keep pace with the growing demand for healthcare, it [the NHS] will need to change the way health services are provided and to do so more quickly.”

According to the BBC, more than half of the savings had come from nationally imposed policies such as pay freezes, rather than through NHS Trusts becoming more productive.

Professor John Appleby, Chief Economist at the King’s Fund said: “Efficiencies will become harder to deliver, as one-off savings such as cuts in management costs start to slow.

“Major reconfigurations of services are needed to improve the quality of care and increase financial sustainability.”

So what does the future hold for the UK’s health landscape? As the NHS continues to find ways to make savings, services could well become increasingly rationed.

Not-for-profit health insurance company, Westfield Health – which provides the Chamber Primary Healthcare Plan, has always existed to complement the NHS.

Executive Director Paul Shires believes that as the pressure on the health service increases and people need to find alternative ways of accessing and paying for their healthcare, this role will only increase in importance.

Paul said: “As the NHS continues to deal with the pressures facing it, front line services will undoubtedly take some of the blow. In 2012 we saw waiting lists for some surgical procedures rise and as we move closer to the NHS’s savings target deadline of 2015, this trend is likely to continue.

“People will need to find alternative ways to access healthcare services and treatments, and ways to cover the cost if required.”

In 2012 Westfield Health introduced numerous new products and services to help its policyholders access healthcare as and when they need it. Hospital Treatment Insurance, launched in April, enables employees to access private surgery and medical treatments for non-life-threatening conditions, such as hernia removal, cataracts surgery and knee replacements.
Hospital Treatment Insurance is available to all members of Norfolk Chamber with five or more employees, either as a standalone product or, for more comprehensive cover, it can be used in conjunction with Westfield’s Chamber Primary Health Plan.

In June 2012, the health insurance provider also unveiled Best Doctors – an expert second medical opinion service, and enhanced the Doctorline™ service to include a webcam consultation facility, allowing policyholders to speak with a GP via webcam Monday to Friday. Both are also available on the Chamber Primary Healthcare Plan.

For more information about the Chamber Plan, visit www.westfieldhealth.com/chamber or call 0845 602 1629, available 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

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