THE OZONE: Money looms large but there are opportunities aplenty

THE OZONE. Views from the frontline of health
By Richard Gardner, chief executive of the British Society of Gastroenterology, where he plays a leading role in developing policy.

Richard Gardner

Money looms large but there are opportunities aplenty

Much like 2016, the NHS landscape this year is likely to be dominated by questions of finance. In the face of increasing demand for NHS and care services all parts of the system, primary, secondary and social care, will be faced with difficult choices because Government is not willing, or able, to pledge additional funding in the current economic climate.

This means very real questions for both clinical teams and their managers, be that CEO or directorate. How do you maintain high-quality and efficient services in the face of increasing demand and flat funding? The answer has to lie in looking closely at what you do, identifying ways to do it better and then implementing and measuring the change.

It also means that all parts of the system need to work better together and in the interests of the patient. This means identifying where unwarranted variation exists and supporting those who are not meeting the level of quality that should be expected. Gastroenterology and hepatology, like any medical specialty, needs to ensure that financial uncertainty does not impact on the quality of service patients receive or compromise the outcomes that patients want and deserve.

However, it also means that teams need to embrace new ways of delivering services that may differ from the ‘norm’. This will be a challenge but one that healthcare professionals need to tackle head on.

Challenges facing IBD care in 2017
Many of the same challenges face IBD care in 2017 but investment, innovation and improvement can be achieved. Services need to work proactively to deliver the optimal service to patients so that their disease can be effectively managed and unnecessary hospital admissions avoided.

Great opportunities are provided by new biological therapies in IBD, especially from biosimilar versions. Active dialogues with commissioners and payers need to be facilitated so that savings from switching to biosimilars can be invested into services. Some great examples have been shown with infliximab and more opportunities lie ahead with adalimumab.

Innovations in the way specialists interact with IBD patients also provide great opportunities to not only save resource but to redeploy it where it is most needed. Using proactive and prospective data collection methods such as the UK IBD Registry will help to manage patients more effectively and ensure care is benchmarked against agreed standards. Linking this with patient-entered data on symptoms could also involve patients in self-care approaches and allow proactive management through ‘hot clinics’. Rather than coming for regular outpatient follow up appointments telephone or Skype clinics could be a really valuable opportunity and also meet the needs of patients.

Greater interaction with, and support for, primary care colleagues needs to be put in place so that patients can access input and advice in a different setting if that meets their needs better. It will also allow better identification and referral for diagnosis and the application of the right tests like faecal calprotectin.

So while the spectre of ‘money’ does loom large and is very real it does provide the opportunity to lead the way in chronic disease management. IBD professionals should lead this charge.

• Richard is a member of The Ozone, a hand-picked group of health experts brought together by Oyster Healthcare Communications to discuss ideas and share best practice across therapy areas. Follow him on Twitter @RichardGBSG

Read more from Richard and his fellow panellists in Issue 1 of The Ozone e-magazine.

Published on: February 7, 2017