Finance experts call on NHS to work with the private sector to fund extra capacity
Undoubtedly, the NHS is currently under significant pressure as it continues to support the nation through a second wave of COVID-19.
The virus first came to the forefront of the global agenda back in March, when so-called ‘non-essential’ NHS services were reduced and postponed, increasing capacity for frontline workers helping to fight the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the UK is set to face additional challenges during, and after, this second wave, putting the NHS under even more strain.
And healthcare professionals are now tasked with continuing to combat the pandemic, while also handling annual winter pressures, and trying to restore normal services to help clear the backlog of patients awaiting treatment.
Suppliers must be ready and we know that finding flexible and creative solutions will be essential to ultimately allow NHS workers to continue caring for all patients
With this mounting pressure, the NHS will likely need to turn to the private sector for help and support, claims Philip Green, commercial director at Solutions Asset Finance (SAF).
He told BBH “Suppliers must be ready, and for finance companies like SAF, we know that finding flexible and creative solutions will be essential to ultimately allow NHS workers to continue caring for all patients.”
He added: “With NHS funding, a set amount of capital is allocated to trusts for solving pressing issues, such as immediate building works or infrastructure repairs.
“And various departments bid on this funding, meaning that being successful in securing the money can be incredibly difficult.
“And when you consider that a trust needs an average of 5-10 times more funding than is allocated each year, using this capital to finance a new facility, or expand an existing one, can take years.
“Moreover, the complex processes surrounding healthcare funding can leave trusts with no way to replace ageing equipment, introduce new facilities, or fund anything that is not considered an immediate threat to the running of a hospital.
“Where this is the case, NHS trusts should work with private-sector firms to find alternative finance solutions that will allow them to work outside of pre-agreed capital budgets and plan better for the future.”
At present, the NHS often works on a reactive, rather than a pro-active, basis, largely because of the pressures it faces.
And, while this is understandable, it’s not a sustainable planning tactic in the long term.
Green said: “Where NHS trusts know they need additional funding – whether it be to source new facilities, equipment or something else entirely – they can, and should, turn to the private sector.
“Capacity issues are only going to worsen as the pandemic continues, so using private finance agreements to prepare hospitals for what’s to come is a viable method.
“Flexible finance solutions are well suited to this mindset and could act as a lifeline for trusts that need additional capacity as soon as possible.
NHS trusts should work with private-sector firms to find alternative finance solutions that will allow them to work outside of pre-agreed capital budgets and plan better for the future
“Utilising these alternative funding methods is the best way to keep up with an influx of COVID and non-COVID related patients, while also making sure that the backlog of other procedures can still be a priority.”
These funded solutions are supplied by independent companies that sit on an approved NHS framework, meaning they are fully compliant and understanding of NHS procurement procedures.
Therefore, the entire process can be managed end to end by trusted and understanding partners that are well versed in public-sector funding.
Green said: “Companies can also offer tailored creative solutions to suit a trust’s individual needs. For example, we can provide funding arrangements that amalgamate the cost of a facility along with equipment hire and ongoing maintenance costs, all set up into one monthly amount.
“This provides a cost-effective and timely solution for trusts looking to expand capacity but which perhaps don’t have the capital upfront.”
Green adds: “All eyes are on the pandemic in 2020, yet the stark reality is that COVID-19 has not eradicated the need for other treatment to be undertaken.
“Instead, the demand for services has simply had to shift to combat the virus. These procedures must still go ahead and trusts still need the equipment and the facilities to make this possible.
"More education and awareness is needed around the collaboration between the NHS and private sector in this area, especially because these flexible solutions will help support the capacity crisis, meaning our NHS can continue providing world-class care.”