On demand

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If you’re a lover of TV shows like ER, House or even Casualty then the last 10 months of my role would have been right up your street.

Joining the NHS as a complete layman has certainly been an education, especially when working in an area where you’re expected to know a lot about everything that happens.

As part of my induction I’ve had guided tours and interesting visits to parts of the hospital that I didn’t even know existed.

Acute hospitals in the UK are like small cities employing a huge range of people to do countless numbers of crucial jobs. 

Along with some of our elected governors I’ve recently had tours of all the obvious places like urgent care, frailty wards, maternity, outpatients and catering as well as some others like IVF, a new pathology lab and most recently a unit that cleans all the medical instruments.

It was during this visit that I was struck by the real communications challenge facing the NHS and probably the biggest issue facing the whole system – sheer demand.

The specialist area I recently visited cleans the surgical instruments and equipment used throughout the day at the hospital. It runs 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

We watched thousands and thousands of glinting pieces of metal being loaded into the machines and it brought home to me the sheer number of people being treated every day by this small corner of the NHS world.

Our outpatients department usually handles around 500 patients every single morning and this doesn’t include people coming into the hospital after an accident or emergency.

A recent report showed that the NHS in England dealt with 100 million outpatient appointments last year alone.

It seems to me that as we all get older, live longer, survive things that previously would have killed us and manage more long term conditions this demand will only increase.

As someone new to health there’s also an unnerving disparity in expectations placed on the NHS – from older people who should perhaps be shouting louder about their care, to others who expect to be seen instantly.

It’s this demand (and how we cope with it) that will shape both the overall operations and communications in the NHS of the future.

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