How flexible finance can drive efficiencies in the NHS to help combat Winter Pressures

December 8, 2023

Winter sees the NHS experience increased demand due to seasonal illnesses like colds and flu.

This year, in recognition of these reoccurring pressures, the government has pledged £200m of new funding to boost NHS resilience and ensure patients receive “the care they need” this winter. The funding, which is dedicated to supporting services during peak months has been bolstered by an additional £40m of investment into social care capacity.

This forms part of the urgent and emergency care recovery plan which involves a £1 billion boost to the health system through the provision of 5,000 beds, 800 new ambulances and 10,000 virtual wards.

While this investment is undoubtedly a welcome move for NHS Trusts throughout the UK, there are other routes which help hospitals and medical centres drive efficiencies and enhance patient outcomes.

The main challenges during winter pressures

Reports indicate that many hospitals under “extreme pressure” are seeing increased demand in emergency and unscheduled care departments, where patient demand can be harder to predict.

This article from the BBC highlights more than 80 patients at a hospital in Wales are waiting for beds, leading them to declare the highest alert level.

While healthcare workers are doing all they can, a lack of beds means that many patients are having to wait significantly longer than normal to receive care. Without being addressed properly, this scenario could happen more often.

2023 is also seeing an unprecedented number of patients in hospital with norovirus, with figures almost triple what they were in 2022. The NHS has combatted this by expanding capacity through the addition of 1,500 more beds. However, adult bed occupancy remains high at 95% and this figure could continue to rise.

Simply put, the NHS faces extreme pressure to consistently provide for increasing patient numbers and does not have the additional support, infrastructure or equipment needed to help them do so effectively.

How could flexible finance help? 

Flexible finance solutions are a quick and efficient way of supporting healthcare organisations to respond to both short and long-term challenges.

At SAF Solutions, we work with a wide range of healthcare suppliers, including medical bed specialists and surgical equipment providers to develop alternative procurement methods that allow the investment in new equipment without the need for upfront capital.

With SAF’s help, suppliers can develop a bespoke solution that aligns with financial drivers and accounting requirements, whilst being structured around a repayment profile that suits the needs and demands of end-users.

Why should healthcare providers consider flexible finance? 

Within the public sector, there is often a complex system of requests, approvals, and sign-off processes, resulting in a reduced scope to be reactive when needed.

Whilst it is well known that the NHS will face exacerbated pressures for services in the winter months, funding is often given reactively, rather than proactively, which does not allow hospitals to plan for increased patient demand.

With rising energy costs, inflation and ongoing economic uncertainty, key NHS decision makers should look to explore alternative procurement routes which would allow the NHS to be more resilient to the challenges posed by winter pressures.

Within the NHS, finance solutions such as a Managed Service Agreement (MSA) are also VAT recoverable. MSA’s incorporate hard and soft services such as maintenance, cleaning, and equipment into an agreement on new facilities or expansions to existing infrastructure, allow Trusts to claim VAT back, reducing the overall investment cost. 

What are the benefits of flexible finance? 

For suppliers, offering a flexible finance solution provides a host of benefits, including:

  • Supporting the healthcare sector: a finance solution makes equipment more accessible to budget-challenged organisations, who don’t have the capital to invest in new equipment.
  • Enhanced trust with end-users: a bespoke finance solution that aligns with an organisation’s budget and other financial requirements shows an increased understanding of unique challenges, helping to be positioned as a trusted supplier.
  • Close more sales: ultimately, this alternative procurement route will secure more sales, removing the lengthy approval processes typically associated with significant outright investment

For NHS trusts and other healthcare organisations, procuring new equipment via a flexible finance agreement will facilitate:

  • Spread the cost: flexible finance solutions allow the finance team to structure the repayments in a way that suits budgets and forecasts
  • Increased resilience and stability: investing in new products help hospitals and medical centres run more efficiently, enhancing patient care delivery and unlocking future opportunities
  • Release capital for investment elsewhere: finance agreements provide steadiness to cashflows, allowing capital to be utilised elsewhere, typically for facility maintenance or repair work

We explore more about how organisations can make the most of their budgets by leveraging flexible finance agreements here.

How SAF can help

With more than 20 years of experience developing structured financial solutions for the public and private sector, SAF’s expert team have an in-depth understanding of public sector budgeting challenges and have already implemented effective funding solutions for numerous NHS Trusts across the UK.

From modular facilities to equipment procurement, we’re experts in devising structured financial solutions that ensure positive outcomes for both suppliers and end users.

Read our range of case studies and get in touch with today to find out how we could support combatting winter pressures.  

Solutions Asset Finance

Looking for First-Class Asset Finance Consultancy?