How virtual services can reduce the impact of staffing challenges for NHS Scotland
NHS Scotland’s latest workforce update continues to show there are challenges in growing the workforce. The data shows that the number of vacancies across consultant, nursing and AHP staffing groups has improved but there are still significant workforce gaps.
With a challenging landscape in Scotland, the impact of this can be more difficult to navigate in some boards, such as in rural and island Health Boards, with accommodation and a temporary workforce much harder to find.
One way to reduce the impact of local workforce challenges is to remove geographical staffing barriers through virtual services.
NHS Scotland’s staff shortage issues seen from above
The following figures represent the current vacancies across NHS Scotland, split into relevant sectors:
- Medical and Dental: 413 vacancies
- Nursing and Midwifery: 5,779 vacancies
- Allied Health Professions: 1,268 vacancies
With a total of just under 7,500 vacancies, NHS Scotland Health Boards have an uphill battle to address the 625,000 backlog currently in place across outpatient, diagnostic and surgical capacities.
The solution: digital services
The advantages of virtual care do not stop at negating workforce challenges. Virtual care can improve patient access, improve attendance and reduce the incidence of clinical harm that is associated with long waits.
With pressure on health boards to reduce national backlogs, The Centre for Sustainable Delivery is leading the adoption of innovative solutions for NHS Scotland through its Accelerated National Innovation Adoption (ANIA) Pathway. There are several digital solutions currently in the ANIA pathway which is a positive sign for the healthcare system in Scotland. We can be assured by Scotland’s forward-thinking approach to innovation but technology alone, is not always enough.
For example, pre-operative assessments (POA) are an ideal service for digital adaptation. Traditionally, POAs can be lengthy processes to assess whether patients are fit for surgery or if further intervention is required beforehand. This usually requires patients to attend the hospital for a nurse assessment plus observations, swabs and blood tests if necessary. Often these procedures are done regardless of the patient’s risk profile.
This results in nurse capacity and time being lost to patients that only require MRSA/Covid-19 swabs and blood pressure readings, all of which can be fulfilled by a healthcare assistant.
Digital POA systems help streamline this pathway, allowing patients to be risk profiled easily and quickly via a series of health questionnaires at home. The answers are then reviewed by nurses to determine the next step of the patient’s journey.
This provides better utilisation of the workforce and improves access for patients, but there may still be a need for increased capacity to ensure waiting lists are reduced in line with the Scottish Government’s target timeframes.
Adopting virtual outpatient services provides similar benefits. A virtual outpatient service is designed to help diagnose and treat patients in a timelier manner with the help of specialists to relieve pressures on both primary and secondary care. In the case of gynaecology, one of the country’s largest specialty backlogs at 5,724 patients, this follows a redesigned outpatient pathway where a consultant gynaecologist reviews and triages patients via a phone, video, or questionnaire assessment.
This allows a consultant to sign-post patients to the most appropriate service, cutting down unnecessary outpatient attendances and helping standardise the clinical referral process.
By implementing technology alongside a fully-managed service, additional capacity is created through a team of experienced consultants who triage GP referrals and risk stratify patients to ensure those with the highest clinical risk factors are prioritised. This can be supported by face-to-face clinics to facilitate physical examination and diagnostic testing as appropriate.
How Xyla Elective Care can support
In order to maximise the benefits of digital services for NHS Scotland Health Boards and its patients, Xyla Elective Care, partnered with technology providers, operates a turn-key solution designed to deliver clinical excellence and positive patient outcomes.
We believe that the independent sector has a role to play in alleviating pressure on existing healthcare staff through full utilisation of digital services, whilst helping NHS Scotland to reduce backlogs and improve patient outcomes.
Contact Murray Chalmers, Business Development Manager for Scotland, to see how we can help to reduce waiting lists across the NHS in Scotland:
0131 297 4704 | firstname.lastname@example.org