Balancing the Health Budget

The news that the Health Minister, Andrew Lansley, has had to intervene in the running of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust has acted as a wake up call across the health sector.  The trust, which reportedly is running at a £1m per week deficit, may have to be put in the hands of an administrator tasked with turning the deficit around.

A further twenty trusts have reportedly declared themselves to be financially unsustainable in their present form.  Whilst some have put their difficulties down to the cost effects of building new premises under the auspices of the private finance initiative (PFI), others seemingly have more complex underlying financial pressures.

The action taken by the Health Minister is the first step in a process which was laid down in section 65 of the National Health Service Act 2009.  If the full procedure is followed and an administrator appointed they will have to produce a draft report within 45 days, followed by a consultation period of 30 days and a final report 15 days later.

Irrespective of the outcome, this intervention has highlighted the continuing financial pressure facing all those providing health services in the UK.  From large NHS trusts to a sole osteopath, the challenge to control costs and maximise income is the same.  For the smaller health practitioner the need to balance costs and income can prove to be a juggling act between time spent in treatment and time spent on business matters.

Taking appointment booking as an example; the more time spent on patient treatment, the more income generated.  But how do you juggle the need to be with a patient with the need to be available to answer the phone and take a booking?  This is where a dedicated health practitioner virtual receptionist service can play a vital part.  With a virtual receptionist answering calls, dealing with routine queries and managing the diary, health practitioners can concentrate on providing treatment for their patients.  Add in an appointment reminder service and the number of no shows falls, helping to keep income levels strong.

We can’t claim that a virtual receptionist service is the panacea which solves the NHS funding crisis.  However, for those working in the health sector from physiotherapists to beauticians and from massage therapists to health clinics a virtual receptionist may just be the first step towards balancing the budget.

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