What Can the NHS Learn from its Poorer Counterparts?

The UK’s National Health Service, or NHS, is the largest publicly funded health system in the world, with over 1.3 million employees and treating over 3 million people every week. However, despite its pivotal role, the NHS has not been spared the government’s recent cutbacks and the service has been set a £30 billion saving target, to be reached by 2021.

While the effects of the cutbacks can be seen in every area of the NHS, from limits on medical equipment to unit closures, it was announced this week that the service was still facing a #funding shortfall and was at risk of reaching only two-thirds of its overall saving target by 2021. As a result, the NHS has been told to look abroad, specifically to its poorer counterparts, for greater savings ideas.

So what can be learnt from looking #overseas?

In India, attention has been drawn to its Aravind Eye Care cataract clinics. The clinics have 400,000 patients a year – 60% of the volume the NHS has for the same procedure – yet performs surgeries at one-sixth of the cost. With levels of surgery success that match the NHS, the difference lies in the surgeons’ time allocation, more of which is spent in surgery at Aravind clinics. Adopting their approach could save the NHS £1.1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s Medicall Home scheme has also been highlighted. A service which reduces unnecessary GP visits by alternatively providing a nurse-operated telephone service to deal with any queries or problems they may have, it is predicted that such a system in the UK could save up to £800 million a year.

Ghana’s mobile phone based solution was another scheme made example of, where patients, instead of seeing a doctor directly, have photos and details sent via mobile phone for “interpretation by a doctor at another location”.

All these ideas validate the argument that quality #healthcare can be provided at lower cost and the NHS most certainly can learn from them. The real question is, however, can these ideas work here? We shall have to wait and see.


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