Calling support

Nearly 1.9million diagnostic tests were carried out by the NHS in January 2022. Add in the 1.8million calls fielded by NHS 111 in the same month and it is not difficult to see why some areas of our health services are stretched. Particularly so, as the same report from NHS England revealed that, despite 1.2million people starting consultant-led treatment in January, the waiting list for routine hospital procedures reached 6.1million.

There is little doubt that health services staff are working to manage the backlog which grew throughout the pandemic. There is also little doubt that people and services are stretched; particularly so as covid may have reduced in severity but it has not gone away. A separate report by NHS England revealed that in acute hospital trusts alone an average of 55,832 members of staff were off sick each day in the week prior to the 10th March. That’s hardly surprising. Whilst covid is still around in any form, increased levels of absenteeism are to be expected.

All of this means that the ‘delivery plan for tackling the Covid-19 backlog of elective care’ which was announced in February may, in its initial stages at least, come under pressure. And that could have a knock on effect right across healthcare services in the UK.  Acknowledging this the sponsors of the plan, Sir David Sloman and Sir James Mackey, comment that :

“Recovering elective services is going to require a huge, collective effort from systems and providers. This is not just in hospitals but across the entire health and social care system. We will only be successful in delivering these commitments if we are to draw on the collective ingenuity, determination, and resilience of teams across the country.”

That resilience in part is going to depend on inbuilt system flexibility. When working under pressure, it only takes a small change in resources to derail carefully planned schedules. By identifying key pinch points, health providers may be able to devise backup solutions which can kick in as required.

For example, some users call on our call handling service to manage all incoming calls but we can also act as an overflow call handling solution as required. So if a health practice’s reception team are short staffed, we can step in and help to keep call management and diary services on track. Not only will this help to ensure a smooth throughput of patients, it can also act to reduce internal pressures and therefore better enable clinicians to concentrate on patient treatments.

Another way of helping to ensure that appointment times are optimised is by sending out reminders either by SMS text messaging or e-mail. Not only can reminders help to ensure attendance, they can also prompt individuals to get in touch and cancel or rearrange appointments if they are unable to attend. This in turn enables the health practice to call on other prospective patients to fill gaps in schedules; thereby helping to speed up treatment times and clear any covid backlog.