Healthcare estates and facilities are under greater pressure than ever before, with the need for vital refurbishments often outweighed by a lack of funding. Keith Austin, CEO of EMS Healthcare, discusses how mobile and modular medical units are providing the facility to deliver uncompromised care.
A growing majority of hospital estates across the UK’s health service is rapidly aging and often becoming unfit for purpose. A vast shift in demographics, which has seen life expectancy increase by almost 13 years since the NHS began, is proving to be one step too far for the traditional hospital environment, with greater needs for healthcare services causing footfall to outpace capacity.
The implications of heightened demand and aging estates are felt far and wide across the healthcare sector – most prominently by patient waiting lists. It is no secret that the NHS is experiencing ever-growing patient backlogs, but whilst demand is unlikely to reduce, it is possible for estates to increase capacity and ensure patients are seen in a safe and clinical environment.
To alleviate capacity pressures, more and more NHS trusts and private providers are enlisting the support of companies, such as EMS Healthcare, that design, deploy and operate fully DDA-compliant mobile medical units. We specialise in units that provide extra space in a safe and welcoming environment for clinical areas including ophthalmology, renal dialysis and infusion, but the mobile unit sector extends to many medical disciplines.
In some cases, such as Frimley Park Hospital, a trust we have been working with for 3 years, these mobile medical units have created up to 250 additional patient slots per week. Prior to this partnership, patients were spending more than an hour and 20 minutes on average in the hospital’s macular department, but due to increased efficiencies established through installing the unit, patients are on board for just 32 minutes, whilst the need for evening and weekend clinics has been totally eliminated.
Due to the rising demand for these services, The NHS North of England Commercial Procurement Collaborative created the Mobile Diagnostics, Theatres, Treatment and Therapy Services framework, allowing trusts to access approved mobile unit suppliers through a much quicker procurement process. EMS Healthcare is one of eleven suppliers listed on this framework, meaning we can increase capacity at a hospital site within six to eight weeks of initial enquiry.
Reaction to refurbishments
The benefit of using the framework also extends to other pressing circumstances, with a fast speed of deployment enabling acute trusts and providers to quickly react to vital refurbishments or emergencies. This was the case for St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is renowned for its kidney patient survival rate with renal services rated ‘outstanding’ in a recent Care Quality Commission review. However, this same review called for the trust to urgently move its renal department from its 120-year-old Knightsbridge Wing.
St George’s faced the prospect of relocating its entire renal department either to other locations within the hospital, nearby hospitals or to satellite dialysis sites in converted buildings away from the original ward. Each option had a drawback, especially for patients receiving regular dialysis, whether it was disruption to routine, an unfamiliar nursing team, overcrowded departments, or a less than ‘outstanding’ service.
A comprehensive solution came in the form of our Liberty Quad unit – a four-trailer solution with seven renal stations for chronic dialysis, including all facilities expected of a modern, fully independent clinic. The unit was deployed within six weeks, meaning regular dialysis appointments continued without disruption directly at the hospital site with the same clinical team patients were familiar with.
Supporting wider targets
As well as providing the space for clinicians to cope with demand, mobile units are being used to provide community-based care, a national target underlined throughout the Five Year Forward View – a set of guidelines for a more sustainable NHS. The mobile and modular sector is constantly innovating with new units that can meet these targets and provide greater support for the most pressing healthcare challenges. An excellent example of this is our most recent development, Quest+, a macular unit that takes just one hour to set up with the ability to be moved on a daily basis, providing NHS trusts the flexibility to reach those requiring regular treatment for impaired vision by delivering care closer to patients’ homes without the need to ender the hospital setting.
Collaboration and implementation
The effects of the rise in demand across NHS services have an impact on all areas of operation, and flexible infrastructure is one of the solutions offering significant value to anyone involved with health services, from estates and facilities teams to clinicians, nurses, and procurement. For this proactive approach to work, it is absolutely vital for decision makers across the board to collaborate effectively in implementing innovative solutions that can help sustain our treasured NHS.