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Patient flow

Blog: What makes a provider a partner and the value a transport provider can bring.

NHS England recently released its 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidance.

NHS 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidanceThe priorities cover staff wellbeing, the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, transforming service delivery to restore elective and cancer care and manage the demand for mental health services, expanding primary care capacity, admission avoidance and efficient discharge, and collaborative, integrated working.

Patient transport services impact and play a role in the success of nearly all of these priorities, which is why it is critical that there is capacity in the system to deliver them. This needs to go beyond having a vehicle arrive on time to move a patient to their destination; that should exist at a minimum and be a consequence of smart service design and partnership working.

In addition to having highly trained, patient-focussed staff, the value a transport provider can bring is in using insight to inform decision making. For ERS Medical, this comes both from our management information and from our evaluation processes.

On a daily basis, events are often fast-moving and complex, and decisions need to be made quickly and close to the ground. Key to enabling this is having access to accurate data from a single source, eliminating the need to manually seek and collate information. Our systems for booking, compliance measurement and HR track data in real time. This offers insight both to keep patient flow moving and to track how we are delivering against our contracts.

Beyond day-to-day insight and required reporting, valuable partnership means reviewing contract performance on an ongoing basis, providing additional analysis, and making recommendations for improvements. Because our management information surpasses standard contract requirements, our reporting, evaluation, and analyses allow us to deliver specific areas of improvement including:

  • Better patient and staff experience
  • Increased journey efficiency/number of patients moved
  • Cost savings for the NHS

For example, in a routine service evaluation of our work with Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, we identified that the vehicle requirements defined in the contract were not meeting patient requirements, specifically concerning patient mobility and the types of vehicles their journeys required. By analysing our contract data, we were able to determine the composition of our fleet which would allow for maximised service utilisation. With our altered vehicle composition more accurately reflecting patient requirements, we were able to move patients much more efficiently, delivering an annual saving of £216,000 to the trust.

As another example, at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, we helped Cramlington Specialist Care Hospital to examine which types of patients were being moved throughout the day. We worked with the trust to provide and analyse the data for weekday and weekend activity over a 12-month period, and through this review we identified that the weekend resource did not match demand. As a result, we worked with the trust to reduce the amount of resource over the weekends. This led to a cost saving of £21,000, and better patient experience due to there being more suitable resources.

With this type of information, we can work with our customers as partners to ensure that the appropriate elements are in place to move patients where they need to be going and maintain capacity within the system. This knowledge also allows us the flexibility to shift resources where they are needed without sacrificing planned service delivery, which has enabled us to support the roll out of over 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses.

Patient transport will continue to be a critical element in the NHS’s recovery from the pandemic; ensuring flow is maintained between health and social care. Both sectors will continue to need consistent support through strong partnership working, which is more important than ever.

Given how dynamic the health and social care environment is at the moment, flexibility in adapting to changes in patient requirements and customer needs is critical. Embedding this focus into an offer is what makes a service provider a valued partner, and this is our ultimate goal.

This blog post was written by Andrew Pooley, Managing Director, ERS Medical