NHS partnership working: Covid’s legacy

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen St Hugh’s Hospital work in partnership with the NHS even more than before – and will leave a lasting legacy of collaboration for the increased benefit of the public.

For a number of years the majority of activity within St Hugh’s has supported the NHS, treating specialities including orthopaedics, general surgery, ophthalmology and gynaecology.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on NHS waiting lists, which currently sit at an all-time peak. St Hugh’s is collaborating with NHS hospitals in Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Hull and Lincoln to identify patients suitable for treatment at its Peaks Lane site who have the highest clinical need and have been waiting the longest time for treatment. During the pandemic, more than 3,400 long-waiting NHS patients have been treated at St Hugh’s, where additional Covid-secure protocols create a safe environment for patients.

Last year, St Hugh’s also provided three ventilators to Grimsby’s Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital to increase the amount of intensive care beds available for people suffering from the virus.

As the UK begins to emerge from what has been labelled by WHO as the world’s worst-ever global health emergency, private hospitals and the NHS are expected to continue working so closely in the future.

St Hugh’s Hospital’s director, Ashley Brown, said: “The pandemic will leave a positive legacy of joint working, meaning a future where collaboration is a matter of course, and ultimately this will improve the experience of people requiring care.

“Independent health care and the NHS are traditionally seen as two separate entities when, for a long time now, patients have had the right to choose where they are treated, irrespective of how the treatment is being paid.

“St Hugh’s, being part of a registered charity, perhaps gives NHS colleagues additional reassurance that the best interests of patients is always at the heart of our decision-making and removes any commercial scepticism that may exist in other parts of the country.

“We have an excellent working relationship with our local NHS colleagues, but Covid-19 has proved we can work as one system, more collaboratively and with multiple NHS providers, for the benefit of patients.”

After pausing elective treatment, during which equipment was loaned to other NHS trusts, St Hugh’s plans to return to pre-Covid productivity levels by treating more than 6,000 patients in the next 12 months.

Provided an NHS patient is clinically appropriate for treatment at St Hugh’s, they can choose where they have surgery – a right that many are not aware of.

Essentially, people can specify which organisation provides their care at the point a GP refers them to a specialist. So, the patient can choose where to see them, and which consultant-led team will look after them. The care provided by St Hugh’s is of the same high standard, regardless of who is paying for the treatment – and there is no extra cost to the NHS, either.

“Choosing where to be treated is important, as clinicians and researchers agree that if you choose a hospital in which you feel comfortable and confident, you’re likely to improve both the result of your treatment and your experience while you are in hospital,” explained Mr Brown.

“St Hugh’s Hospital is part of a UK-wide initiative called Choose and Book, which allows patients to select where they would like to receive their treatment at a time that is convenient for them. It offers greater flexibility for patients to select the right healthcare provider for their specific needs. If location or transport is an issue, it’s great to know that you’re able to select a hospital or clinic close to home. You can also book your appointment at a time to suit you, which is ideal if you have to juggle work, childcare or looking after elderly relatives.

“Sometimes decisions on where you want to be treated are made there and then in the GP consulting room, so it makes sense to be prepared to ask the right questions. Some providers have exclusion criteria, such as past medical history, which may mean you are not suitable for treatment in that hospital or treatment centre. Your GP will be able to advise you.

“Once you have been referred for treatment by your GP, if it’s convenient, you can book your appointment before you leave the practice. They will send the appointment booking to us electronically and give you a copy of the details. If you need to consult your diary or would like time to consider your options, you will be sent an appointment request letter so you can book an appointment at a later date. As soon as you have attended your appointment , your treatment will proceed from there.

“There are many benefits to choosing St Hugh’s. Your specialist consultant will personally oversee your treatment from start to finish. We have comfortable modern, private facilities, and fresh bedding on electronically operated beds with in-room entertainment and en suites. There are low waiting times and rapid access to specialists, free parking, and an in-house catering team with great menu choices.

“And, especially during these challenging times, it is good to know that our infection control is second to none. We have a rigorous screening process in place which strictly limits infections.”

St Hugh’s Hospital is a designated as a Super Green Site, meaning people who do not have coronavirus can safely undergo surgical procedures.

For some time, it has been following strict measures – such as staff and patient screening, and separate entrances for different departments – to protect everyone using it. To provide even further certainty, visitors are not allowed unless in exceptional circumstances, and the way staff work has changed too. Last year, more than 3,600 consultations were carried out over the phone or virtually, reducing the risk face-to-face meetings carries for both the patients and staff.

“Like most, we have faced challenges during the pandemic,” added Mr Brown. “I am proud to say we have overcome them, keeping everyone as safe as possible. Just because we are experiencing something unprecedented doesn’t mean excellent health care stops – we all deserve medical attention, regardless of what’s going on around us.”

If you have any queries regarding patient referrals to St Hugh’s, call the Choose and Book team on 01472 251100.