How could a Single Point of Access help the NHS face key challenges?

15th Feb, 2016
Read time: 2 minutes

Most of us are aware of the significant challenges facing the NHS.

  • Budget cuts and efficiency improvements - NHS England need to find £22 billion in efficiency savings by the year 2020
  • UK Ageing population - 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old and that number is rising (currently over 15% of the population)
  • Growing demand for care - Growing demand for healthcare due to lifestyle factors and increasing public expectations
  • 7-day NHS - The government’s plan to introduce a 7-day NHS

In this blog we will look at how providing a single point of access (SPA) could help support trusts achieve successful outcomes with improved cost savings.

Within the NHS we have seen a gradual move towards providing a more centralised resource when it comes to healthcare contact points. There are many examples across the country where this is happening. In Scotland this could be in the form of NHS boards sharing resources across Primary and Secondary care, in England we are seeing more multi-hospital trusts and within the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) resources are being shared across community NHS services. By sharing resources and offering a single number strategy, trusts and boards often find that they can make significant cost savings and efficiency improvements while providing a better service to patients.

Single point of access supports healthcare professionals in arranging the right care for urgent and non-urgent referrals helping to prevent avoidable hospital admissions and effectively managing long term conditions in the community. Managed correctly, it ensures referrals are properly documented, appropriately distributed and prioritised so patients can get the correct treatment in a timely manner tackling the ever-growing demand for care.

Best practice suggests that SPA contact centres should be staffed by fully qualified and skilled healthcare professionals 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, offering advice and guidance through a triage process assessing the urgency of care required.
When thinking about an SPA strategy your trust should consider the following:

  • Single number strategy – giving patients and health care professionals one number that can enable them to be routed through to the most appropriate person, department or member of staff
  • Access to Digital History – the ability to quickly and easily access a complete digital history of patients known to you (including name, address, date of birth, NHS number, previous calls, call recordings, written correspondence, appointments and status of 18 week pathway)
  • Automated call queues – to support triage and to gather appropriate patient information where necessary
  • Multi skilled staff – remove any “silos” by making sure all telephone staff are multi-skilled by offering support through interactive knowledge bases and scripting for triage
  • Multichannel – patients’ expectations on how they interact with trusts are changing. While voice remains the most common form of communication, consider patients who may prefer to interact through email, web chat, social and self-service portals.
  • Audit trails - make sure you have a full audit trail of all interactions and an easy way to measure against SLAs
  • Virtual agent – reduce the pressure on queues by offering self-service options through inbound/outbound voice and multichannel.

If you’re considering a Single Point of Contact offering, get in touch. We can help assess your needs and offer the most cost effective solution tailored to your requirements.

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