Meet the sector: Health
Next up in our 'meet the sector' series, the health sector! Find out how the sector works, what technology is needed and even some tips on how to sell to the NHS.
The NHS is one of the most complex sectors in terms of structure and funding. There are three primary reasons why the NHS is so tricky; there are lots of parts of the NHS, with different characteristics of how they buy, the budgets for health and social care are continually cut and finally the internal structure of the organisation keeps changing.
NHS Sector 101
The Department of Health and Social Care sets budgets for healthcare, most of which goes to NHS England, which is responsible for overseeing the commissioning, planning and buying of NHS services. NHS England commissions some services itself, but most of its money is passed onto 200 or so clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England that identify local health needs and then plan and buy services not only from NHS trusts that run hospitals and community services, but also from GPs and others (including charities and the private sector).
Supporting NHS England are NHS Improvement, which helps trusts keep a lid on costs, operating efficiently and the focus on improvements, and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which inspects the quality of care provided.
In 2014 NHS England published a vision for the future of health care called the NHS five year forward view. This called for more of a focus on preventing people getting ill in the first place and giving patients more control of their own care.
It also set out a range of “new models of care” to provide “joined-up care” for patients. 50 vanguard sites have been trialling these different ways of delivering more joined-up care over the last few years.
44 Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) areas are focusing on a way of working together through collaboration between NHS organisations, local authorities, charities, and others to improve health and modernise local services.
Some STP areas are evolving into Accountable Care Systems (ACSs) that work together under a set budget to improve health and coordinate services for people who live in a particular area. Both STPs and ACSs are seeking to combine social care and public health, by working more closely with local authorities.
In the future you’ll still see your GP or get hospital care as before, but more support and treatment will be provided at home, you’ll also get more help to stay healthy and you might also get to see your GP quicker, but you may need to travel further from home to access better, more-specialist hospital services.
Since moving to the Department of Health and Social Care from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock has committed more than £400 million towards ‘tech transformation’ within the NHS, saying: “One of the major reforms we need to see is bringing new technology across the health and care system. Of course, introducing new technology can be bumpy. But the potential benefits are huge.”
Previous digital transformation plans across the health service have mostly either failed or made limited progress. The worst example was the National Programme for IT, which was abandoned having cost billions. Since then, plans for a ‘paperless NHS’ have promised change without yet delivering much.
Tech needs suppliers can solve
- Legacy Infrastructure and Integration: much of the NHS is reliant on a fragmented and out-dated technology estate that includes inefficient technologies such as fax machines – which are still in widespread use across the NHS. In addition, much of the specialised legacy equipment and software in use cannot be migrated to run on more modern systems. At the same time, collaborating between NHS bodies as well as with local authorities, charities, and others external organisations to improve health and modernise local services, will require secure and effective integration.
- Security and Data Privacy: Digital ethics and data privacy has been identified by Garner as one of the top trends for 2019. The WannaCry cyberattack, which severely disrupted services in 2017 and left thousands of appointments cancelled, cost the NHS approximately £92 million. As the ‘paperless NHS’ seeks to implement electronic health records, security and data privacy will be critical. All NHS organisations and local authorities which provide social services must have a Caldicott Guardian, a senior person responsible for protecting the confidentiality of people’s health and care information and making sure it is used properly.
- Skills and Resources: with a budget that is failing to keep pace with the growing cost of caring for an ageing population with increasingly complex health care needs, the NHS and its staff over stretched and under pressure, and in many areas of technology they lack the skills required to enable digital transformation.
Three key elements of the solution:
- The Cloud: Moving to the cloud will enable organisations within the NHS to modernise their systems improve efficiency, enhance security and enable wider collaboration.
- Standards: NHS Digital is working with partners across the health and social care system to ensure information flows efficiently and securely. It supports collaboration by providing the digital frameworks and standards for initiatives such as the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), Summary Care Records (SCR) and the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS).
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Apps: If more care is to be provided in the home and if patients are to be given more control of their own care, then we will need a new generation of secure, user-friendly, accessible apps to support these initiatives.
Top tips for selling to the health sector
You need to remember that the NHS is not a single organisation. It is a fragmented array of collaborating entities, each with their own influencers and decision makers. You can start by making sure that you understand how the NHS works. Hopefully from this content you have a better idea. And, if you haven’t already check out the useful animation By King’s Fund embedded in this blog.
Then try seeking to engage with the digital champions and influencers within the NHS. A good place to start is the NHS Influencers: Who are they and what are they saying? , curated by Onalytica.
Don’t forget though that senior clinicians have massive lobbying power over any decision-making and have particular issues and challenges that are unique to each organisation.
Also try to learn from others – there are several guides available with tips on how to sell to the NHS:
- 10 Tips For SMEs Who Want To Work With The NHS
- Selling to the NHS – National Innovation Centre
- How to sell to the NHS – Health Innovation Exchange
If I were to select one single tip from all those included in these guides, it would be: Don’t “sell the tech” but “sell the benefits”.
OK so you’ve got some great products and technology – so has everyone else and I’m afraid that your clients in the NHS don’t really care about the tech. They want to know how it is going to solve their problems. Start by aligning your business case to the NHS national policies – such as GP Forward View – and then make sure that you also focus on the local priorities of the client organisation as well. Understand the local issues and then a provide a clear narrative, with references and case study examples, as to how your solution is going to help them overcome their challenges and achieve their objectives.