Meeting the NHS operating framework 2012-13

Jason Long, Business Development Manager at Asteral, comments on the recent publication of the NHS Operating Framework for the year ahead and advises Trusts on how to respond.

The recent publication of the NHS Operating Framework for 2012-13 serves to reinforce the tough challenges currently facing the NHS. Although we are all well aware of these issues, this is the first time that a document of this nature has spelt out the reality of the current situation in such strong terms.

Times are tough now but during the year ahead there will be a renewed focus on meeting the QIPP agenda and delivering £20 billion efficiency savings and improved patient outcomes. The clear message is that the quality offered by Trusts has to continue, and even improve, whilst at the same time driving demonstrable efficiencies across operations.

The report refers to further introduction of financial rewards and penalties to ensure targets are met. The Payment by Results (PbR) scheme may be expanded and developed to incentivise best clinical practice and better patient outcomes. Those Trusts providing high quality services will be rewarded, while those not delivering the right level of care or efficiency savings will see a reduction in payments. In addition, those Trusts spending more on goods and services than their peers will be expected to justify their actions under a ‘comply or explain’ regime.

With such a spotlight on performance and spending, those in the acute sector need to think very carefully about how they are going to deliver on target over the next operating year.

Equipment solutions are available today that don’t require capital investment upfront, enabling Trusts to acquire fit for purpose equipment that meets both the clinical and financial brief. Vendor independent providers can also pass on savings through bulk buying of equipment and review the entire market for the right equipment at the best price. However, procurement is only half the challenge. A smart equipment strategy, covering everything from staff training and consumables to maintenance and replacement, enables hospitals to extract optimum performance from their medical equipment on an ongoing basis.

This holistic approach is going to be very important in identifying and delivering measurable efficiency savings. It requires a combination of clinical expertise, technical excellence and commercial understanding to deliver long-term and transformational change to the way NHS Trust’s facilities are planned, managed and maintained.