As we went from 2021 into 2022, there was an air of having moved from the frying pan into the fire, at least as far as the NHS was concerned. Where previously it had been the sheer number of critically ill patients that had threatened to overwhelm it, the problem then became the volume of absenteeism, because of quite how contagious the new Omicron variant was.
As of January 2nd, the NHS was missing nearly 40,000 employees in England alone, for Covid related reasons. Which was more than three times the number who had been off work at the beginning of the previous month.1
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, wrote the following day;
“We are currently in a state of crisis… Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave, to enable them to sustain core services.”2
Integrated Care Systems and the NHS
All of which came in the middle of winter, when, traditionally, the already overburdened health system becomes even more stretched. And on top of which, the entire system is in the midst of being radically re-imagined.
From April this year, all the different elements that go to make up the NHS will be filtered through the newly created network of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).
Beginning in England, where the forty-two ICSs are already in place, the idea is to facilitate joined-up care and support, by linking local councils, the NHS, and voluntary and community organizations. This will make it much easier for them to collaborate and share resources, which in turn will result in much more personalized care.
Covid 1: Pooling resources
Although change had already been in the air, this idea was certainly given fresh impetus because of the experience of Covid. Suddenly, GPs, councils, charities, and hospitals had come together and were cutting corners to deal with a national health emergency. And, as in so many other areas, people started asking themselves, why can’t we pool our resources together like this every day?
Covid 2: Staffing crisis
As we move into what looks increasingly like a second phase of Covid, where hospitalization and critical care become less of a concern (crossing all available fingers), and staffing comes instead to the fore, the NHS is once again being forced into action because of the pandemic.
In effect, each of the different organizations that go to make up the NHS, the Trusts, the non-departmental bodies, etc., are now having to ask themselves the same question that the ICSs are asking of the organization as a whole. Namely, how do we make the most effective and efficient use of our resources? For both the patients and our employees?
Capacity management tools
The answer to which is, you need to employ the right tools. And when it comes to organizational structures and internal processes, that means software. Because if you had to sum up the changes that Covid has forced upon us in one word, it would be ‘digital’.
There are a number of immediate and quantifiable improvements that the right software package will give your organization. For a start, you can monitor and measure pretty much every aspect of performance, with pie and Gantt charts and regular, automated reports.
This in turn will mean everyone can visualize where the department or organization is. Which will make monitoring progress much more real, and much easier to follow.
And this will make your organization much more flexible. Because you’ll now have a much better idea of what’s working and what isn’t. And what, therefore, is the best way to allocate your limited resources.
The most important resource of all of course is your staff. And when your staff becomes even more stretched than they usually are, it’s especially important that you have the necessary tools to be able to manage and optimize your diminished capacity. And that means capacity management software.