Supporting NHS resilience through preventative community health programmes

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In our latest article, Margaret McNab, Managing Director of our Health Division, explores how preventative community health programmes have the power to play a pivotal role in alleviating pressure on clinical services – fostering a more connected approach across government whilst embracing the transformative power of technology. 

Prevention is key 

The increasing emphasis on prevention within the NHS, from both the Government and the opposition, is an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Shifting towards a “National Prevention Service” as suggested by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Ministers and others, holds the potential to revolutionise the healthcare system. Research from the Tony Blair Institute underscores a critical imbalance, with almost 99% of all health spending currently directed towards treating illness rather than promoting health and wellbeing, and public health budgets continue to be squeezed. This is despite estimates that show public health interventions can be three- to four- times more productive than average health care expenditures.

A renewed approach to prevention can address the root causes of health issues, with some estimates suggesting that 40% of NHS costs are currently spent on treating preventable conditions. By encouraging healthier lifestyles through community health services and increasing health checks, we can reduce the burden on clinical services and allow the NHS to allocate resources more efficiently.

As a community health provider specialising in public and preventative health services, we understand how invaluable quality provision can be when it comes to supporting NHS resilience. By utilising best practice and behaviour change models to deliver public health services on behalf of local authorities, in areas as diverse as Buckinghamshire and Brent, we’re helping people to make long-lasting changes that ultimately lead to healthier and happier lives. The evidence speaks for itself, with more than 80% of people who engage with our innovative lifestyle services achieving positive health outcomes.

Creating a connected approach 

Good preventative health policy extends beyond the boundaries of the NHS and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). Coordinated efforts are essential to alleviate the ever-increasing demand for treatment and address broader social and economic concerns that can lead to poor health.

For instance, we understand that poor quality work and a lack of mental and physical support in work can have a detrimental impact on health, as well as wider social and economic outcomes. Disabled people are almost twice as likely to fall out of work than non-disabled people, and addressing this requires better in-work health support and a better package of support for employers.

In particular, timely access to mental health support necessitates a holistic approach, encompassing both clinical interventions like Talking Therapies and non-clinical interventions such as Vocational Rehabilitation. Lack of timely access to this support can lead to further negative social outcomes and demand for urgent care. Preventative services like the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service, which Maximus delivers on behalf of DWP, needs to be incorporated into the wider discussion.

Embracing technology and innovation 

The ongoing AI revolution presents unparalleled opportunities to enhance patient outcomes, reduce costs and revolutionise healthcare delivery. Despite the challenges outlined in the recent Institute for Government report on NHS productivity, the transformative power of technology is undeniable. The report evidences the challenges in adopting and rolling out these new technologies within the NHS, but we’re already seeing within our own organisation, the vast opportunities this technology offers in improving the experience of a patient or service user.

We’ve seen examples of this progress within the NHS too, from cancer detection to providing personalised support and a better overall experience. While acknowledging the concerns surrounding AI, it is crucial to focus on the genuine opportunities for better patient care. It’s encouraging to see the Government taking a global leadership role on this agenda, but the private sector, as an innovation partner, also plays a key role in advancing technology and ensuring its seamless integration into healthcare.

Looking ahead 

The future of health services lies in a proactive and interconnected approach that prioritises the individual and leverages the potential of technology and innovation. Traditionally health services in the UK have been strongly geared towards treatment rather than prevention, but by redirecting our focus towards prevention, through community health services and other interventions, we can build a more resilient and responsive healthcare system that takes the strain off the NHS.

20 February, 2024