Exporting quality clinical expertise
By World Healthcare Journal-
At Imperial, we provide specialist healthcare in London for around 1.5m people every year. Created in 2007, we are one of the largest NHS trusts in the country, with 12,000 staff, 2,500 doctors, 4,500 nurses, and more than 1,000 people currently in training in with our academic partner Imperial College London.
Each of our five hospitals has a long track record in the research and education sphere, influencing clinical practice nationally and worldwide. We have a growing number of community services and provide private patient healthcare in dedicated facilities on our sites, including the world-renowned Lindo Wing at St Mary’s. We are hugely proud that here at Imperial we welcome international private patients to access the best of the NHS on a paid-for basis.
However, until just last year, access to our knowledge base and expertise was limited to patients travelling to the UK for treatment, and overseas relationships with individual consultants. Since then, the Trust has been developing long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships which support the long-term quality improvement in healthcare delivery, both within our own NHS and developing health systems internationally.
Imperial’s key expertise
Our busy central London location brings more than 300,000 emergency patients a year and growing. We are a major trauma centre and we run this vital facility in tandem with elective procedures in the same hospital and theatres. This ability centres on maintaining flow and using quality improvement methodology - many policies, procedures and ways of working have been drawn up around it. The NHS takes it for granted that we undertake this background methodology, the statistics are improving, and we are better at processing all these patients even though numbers are increasing.
As an example of potential collaboration, we can say to anyone in the world if they are struggling to balance emergency and elective patients, Imperial has a successful trauma centre in central London and we can work with you to improve clinical care and patient flow.
“We find that being speciality-focused, and working in close partnership with local teams is extremely effective”
- Alistair Russell, Business Development, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Complementing this advisory service, we can work with colleagues to develop education programmes. The NHS’s concept of the healthcare manager is extremely interesting to many international providers, especially in Asia where care tends to be ‘doctorcentric’. Imperial has developed bespoke courses around nurse management, doctor management and general management that have been forged on the front line, rather than created in a university environment.
Our view is that we should train people in teams and include not only doctors and nurses but physiotherapists, speech therapists and so on. This is not about the doctor but about the patient, as the patient doesn’t need the doctor all the time.
We are interested in working with international clinical teams to improve clinical services at the hospital, regional or national level. We do this through forming front-line, clinical multi-disciplinary teams, who work in partnership with international colleagues, to audit and develop action plans for improvement. Together we then implement change through policy, service design and tailored education programmes. We can also help with costs efficiency and integration with other providers. We find being speciality-focused, and working in close partnership with the local teams is extremely effective.
Developing international partnerships
The challenge of providing our expertise to international clinical teams and providers is an enormous opportunity for developing the NHS and the global health system at large. But the question is – how can we best do this? At Imperial, we believe there are key factors in facing the challenge of exporting our knowledge, speciality, and talent - while ensuring a symbiotic relationship between governments, organisations, partners and individuals.
Through encouraging relationship-building of small-scale, local partnerships, our product and clinical relationships are managed better, our understanding of local need and demand increases, and the model of care continues to develop. By focusing our efforts on local healthcare development and promoting relationships between clinics inside and outside of the UK, we can start to develop what we call a ‘ward to ward pathway’.
Through supportive partnerships and local interaction, a seamless journey from a patient travelling from an international ward to our ward in London could become an option. As such, the clinical management never has to miss a beat – ensuring the best provision of care and quality that the NHS has to offer.
To achieve this, clinical partners need to have a relationship on the ground. They need to understand each other’s clinical offering and they need to have regular, effective communications.
Understanding developing healthcare systems
When we do business abroad, particularly in developing markets such as the Middle East, we need to hedge against the fact that these healthcare systems are still very much developing – and patients may not always be able to travel to London.
So if we only develop the best clinical service in London, then patients from partners in developing markets won’t be able to receive the best clinical care. This again comes back to developing healthy relationships between clinics and partners. We have to ensure that the quality of care is the best it can be from the very first point of contact – and develop the knowledge and expertise abroad so that only the most complex and difficult cases are sent back to the UK when needed.
Over more than 70 years, the NHS has been growing, training, and developing new and innovative systems of care, and expanding an unrivalled specialised knowledge base in thousands of different sectors of care.
By exporting expertise, we not only allow the NHS to further develop its knowledge, maintain and grow its workforce, research and models of care, but we enable the global health system to benefit as much as possible too, promoting the values of the NHS, of outstanding universal healthcare, for everyone.
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