How can healthcare improve with a revolving door of decision-makers?

Published: 3-Jan-2024

Dr Louise Morpeth, CEO of Brain in Hand, explains the impacts of changing leadership on autism diagnosis and support

The latest cabinet reshuffle marks yet more turbulence for the healthcare sector. The unfortunate truth is that, with a revolving door of decision-makers, it’s hard to see how there can be a consistent strategy for prioritising and tackling the many difficulties that healthcare teams and patients are currently facing.

Each month we are hit with another NHS waiting list record high. Things cannot carry on as they are. It becomes ever clearer that consistent leadership and policies are needed to reduce the load and deliver the change required.

Take autism support, for example. There are over 143,000 currently on waiting lists for an assessment, set to rise to 190,000 by next year. Without the necessary support, more and more people are reaching a point of crisis. People are suffering due to a fundamental lack of support. While other forms of help, like technology, are easing these pressures, we need to address the root of the problem and significantly increase access to support. Otherwise, health inequalities will continue to disadvantage huge numbers of people in tragic and avoidable ways.

An exclusive and unregulated scene

New research has recently revealed that more than two-thirds of workers are moving to private care, with stories of other people remortgaging and taking out loans to cover the costs of private treatment. It marks a growing trend of people who are unable to access the care they need and turning elsewhere to fill the gaps. But what about the many others who don’t have this luxury?

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Moreover, going private is not without its faults. Naturally, it is structured differently with the House of Lords noting that “the absence of a single person or organisation with overall control or oversight of the sector means poor performance is going unchecked.”

Essentially, the current performance across both private and public sectors leads to greater inequalities and further divides access to healthcare services. It illustrates how having a consistent leader runs deeper than just having a figurehead around the cabinet table.

Broadening the scope of support

Technology and digital support tools are effective and accessible ways of providing tailored support. To return to autism support, we know that technology combined with human support can be an effective way of helping autistic people reduce anxiety and improve their quality of life - and it can be easily provided to all who need it.

By allowing users to self-manage (when safe and appropriate to do so), these tools can reduce reliance on support services while also bettering outcomes for autistic people, who face many obstacles to receiving support. This service can be made available to all, without the need for a diagnosis. There is a demand for much more inclusive and accessible support. Why wouldn’t we harness the technology we use every day to deliver it?

This combination of human and digital support is one solution that, if implemented widely, could help improve our dire situation. It can’t solve every problem facing the healthcare sector; the wider system still needs leadership oversight, strategy, and funding to aid NHS services and wider community support. But with this leadership still highly uncertain and interchangeable, technology might serve as one of the most effective ways of providing accessible support and easing immediate healthcare pressures.

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