How medical practices can use asset finance to unlock more revenue and support the NHS

July 26, 2022

By Phil Dring, Head of Sales at Solutions Asset Finance

The NHS is experiencing some of the most severe pressures in its 70-year history. Prolonged periods of underinvestment and inadequate system planning has created crippling workforce and widespread bed shortages, among other issues. As a result, there is limited capacity to tackle the NHS elective care waiting lists, which existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic but which have been exacerbated by recent events.

Utilising every inch of available capacity is now crucial to address increasing NHS patient waiting lists and elective surgery waiting times. Facility management will be key; more equipment will be needed to perform more procedures and medical centres within both the public and private sectors across the UK will have a huge role to play.

What the Government plans to do

The Government has already formally presented its delivery plan to tackle the backlog of elective care. It recognises the challenges the NHS faces, but quite rightly highlights the achievements throughout the pandemic when it comes to care provision.

Some of these include:

  • 23 million episodes of elective care
  • 36 million key diagnostic tests
  • 4.2 million urgent cancer checks
  • More than 530,000 first treatments for cancer

Within its plan, the Government has committed the NHS to delivering around 30 per cent more elective activity by 2024/25 than it did before the pandemic. Elective care covers a broad range of non-urgent services, usually delivered in a hospital setting, from diagnostic tests and scans to outpatient care, surgery, and cancer treatment.

New NHS England targets include targets to ensure no patient should have to wait longer than 12 months for elective care by March 2025 with plans in place to gradually reduce waiting times between now and then.

Diagnostic testing is also key part of many elective care pathways, with ambitions to ensure 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by March 2025.

There’s no doubt that the NHS and everyone within it works incredibly hard to deliver elective care, but to see real change in the ever-growing backlog, it will require a fundamental shift in how healthcare is delivered in the short and medium term.

Some of the key problem areas

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the delivery of elective care, meaning that many patients are now waiting longer for treatment than they were before the pandemic began. Some of the key problem areas include:

  1. Orthopaedics – Over 635k on procedural waiting list
  2. Ophthalmology – Over 529k on procedural waiting list
  3. ENT – Over 401k on procedural waiting list
  4. General Surgery – Over 376k on procedural waiting list
  5. Gynaecology – Over 382k on procedural waiting list

To date, government funding has been allocated to specific initiatives, such as the establishment of community diagnostic centres and elective surgery hubs. But tackling the elective backlog will require additional resources across the system to increase a range of activities.

The role that medical practices could play

The UK has more than 6,000 local medical practices, which are uniquely positioned to take on additional diagnostic services and day case surgical procedures. This would help to alleviate the burden on NHS hospitals; make inroads into the NHS England delivery plan for tackling the Covid-19 backlog of elective care; and support the drive to meet NHS England targets for improving.

There are also plans to expand the number of new local medical centres across the UK, which would bolster this as a potential solution. There are currently more than 2,000 health centres/ GP surgeries/ medical practices serving a patient list of between 10,000 and 50,000 individuals.

While there are some limited funds being made available to support localised investment in medical equipment required to cater for the expansion of services, in my opinion, this does not go far enough. Other solutions are needed, and this is where asset finance initiatives could play an instrumental role. As well as providing a cost-effective procurement mechanism for best-in-class equipment, it can also provide medical practices with a sound return on investment while ensuring patients have access to the latest diagnostic and surgical technology.

Owners and managers of UK medical practices have a fantastic opportunity to deliver increased volumes of patient care and the NHS needs them to step forward and support it. Despite the super-human efforts of its staff, the NHS is creaking under the weight of elective care services, and I believe medical practices who choose to invest now will have the biggest roles to play in the future.

Find out more

SAF specialises in structuring and funding finance solutions for multiple industries in both the public and private sectors, in particular the NHS. With significant experience and a proven track record of working with the healthcare sector and its supply partners, contact us today to understand how we could provide you with affordable and compliant alternatives to an outright capital purchase.

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