The future security and the success of any Nation depend on the health status and wellbeing of its citizens. Therefore, effective management and planning for the national health budget is an integral part of guaranteeing a secure future for the residents of any given Nation.
This strategic plan seeks to provide four imperative strategic objectives for the improvement of the quality of health care services and patient outcomes in the UK through the NHS, which is the national health organization that manages the national health budget in the UK. Relative to the current issues in health care such as the increased need for evidence-based health care services and the increasing number of the elderly population facing various chronic complications, the public health sector in the UK is facing major challenges.
Therefore, to address the challenges facing the public health sector in the UK such as limited resources, the increased number of patients in hospitals, and the inadequate number of health care professionals, this strategic plan proposes that a certain percentage of the national health budget should be channeled towards implementing the four strategic objectives. These objectives include broadening of the public and private medical insurance coverage; improving the availability and accessibility of the healthcare services; promoting the quality, safety, and the cost of health care services; and to train, recruit, and retain highly qualified health care professionals.
Consequently, the successful implementation of the four strategic objectives will see the quality of heath care services and the patient outcomes improving significantly as a result of the stabilized cost of service provision, the increased number of people accessing affordable insurance covers, and the increased percentage of the UK population accessing timely, affordable, and evidence-based medical interventions.
The future security and success of a Nation depends on the health status and the productivity of families, communities, individuals. Therefore, public health facilities and services play a pivotal role in ensuring that different countries in the world meets the basic requirements of their citizens through developing strategic plans that address different aspects of health care such as promotion of public health and disease prevention (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2005). Conversely, the developed strategic plans allow the public health facilities and services to respond to emergencies besides establishing and improving human health services through promoting research and development in medical sciences (Berwick, 2009, p. 53).
In the United Kingdom, health care is provided by the National Health Service (NHS), which offers public health services such as primary care and long-term health care to permanent citizens of the UK. Furthermore, the health care services are free to all and they are financed later through National Insurance and taxation (Citizen Advice Bureau, 2010). As a result, the National Insurance and taxation contribute about £98.6 billion per annum to cater for health care services through the NHS.
Additionally, healthcare is also provided by the private sector, which avails different alternative and modern health services to individuals who are in a position to pay for the services. However, the NHS and the private sector face various challenges, which are associated with the current issues in health care such as the increased demand for quality services, unlimited resources, and lack of enough qualified healthcare professionals to cater of the increasing number of patients (Huwa, 2010).
This strategic plan aims at proposing priorities and objectives to be used in improving the patient health care outcomes and the quality of health care services through the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. As a result, the proposed priorities will cover a period of 10-15 years and they will address the technological, political, social, and economic factors influencing the health care services in the UK.
Statement of Proposal
In March 2010, newspaper articles in the UK revealed NHS’s plan to cut down on the health care budget, which clearly shows that the public health sector in the UK is facing major challenges. According to the plan, about 10% of the health care workers were to be laid off besides reducing the number of hospital beds and emergency service call outs. As a result, the plan aimed at saving more than £20 billion relative to a £167 billion shortage of funds facing the UK (Huwa, 2010).
Conversely, the largest percentage of the population depends on the NHS to meet their health care requirements considering that only 8% of the UK population affords additional medical services through the private sector.
Therefore, there is a clear indication that many people will suffer if the plan succeeds. Furthermore, a survey conducted on 900 nurses in March 2010 shows that most public health care facilities in the UK are facing major challenges in terms of the increased number of patients who are forced to spend a lot of time in day rooms without any special attention (Huwa, 2010). Nevertheless, those patients who make it to emergency rooms may be released prematurely because they are supposed to be attended to in no more than four hours. Therefore, cutting the health budget will only serve to aggravate the already worsening situation.
As a result, this strategic plan presents priorities and objectives whose aim is to improve the quality, accessibility, safety, and the affordability of the public health services in the UK through the NHS.
The first objective entails broadening the public and private health insurance coverage and contributions to cover a larger proportion of the population and a wide range of health services including long-term care and critical care services. The second objective is to improve service availability and accessibility. Thirdly, the plan aims at promoting the quality, cost, and safety of the services. Lastly, the forth objective is to train, recruit, and retain qualified health care professionals who possess the necessary competencies to provide quality services. Therefore, rather than cutting down on the health budget, the NHS can do better by providing information to the public on the availability of discounted health insurance services in the private sector to those individuals who can afford them (Drummond et al., 2005). Additionally, the four objectives will enable the NHS to use the available resources to meet the needs of a greater percentage of the population.
Strategic Objectives and Priorities for the NHS
Objective 1: Broadening the national and private health insurance coverage
Studies show that to achieve the provision of affordable, high quality, and accessible health care services, there is the need to provide health care consumers with adequate information on the availability of choices that they should make (Grol et al., 2007, p.110). Therefore, the critical role of NHS in this strategic plan is to discourage overdependence on the already overwhelmed national health budget. As a result, the plan aims at encouraging more third party health care providers such as the private health insurance companies and employment corporations to take part in the provision of health care service funds to a large percentage of the population (Alexander, 2009).
Therefore, if the federal government gave its citizens the freedom to choose from a variety of health insurance services, then it is almost certain that the private sector and other organizations will be encouraged to take part in health care service provision.
Consequently, this strategic objective enables the public to realize the need to obtain and sustain their own choice of affordable and reliable health care insurance covers, which enable them to obtain quality health care services. Therefore, this multifaceted objective aims at expanding the insurance choices available to healthcare consumers through encouraging the public to acquire discounted private health insurance covers available in the market. For instance, the public should purchase their health insurance premiums from Bupa UK Medical Insurance, Bristol Contributory Welfare Association Limited (BCWA), Clinicare, and the Simply Health Medical Insurance (Citizen Advice Bureau, 2010).
Objective 2: Improving service availability and accessibility
The ever-increasing need for health care services and the high number of elderly persons facing various chronic health complications are just but a portion of the current issues in health care, which call for urgent interventions and strategic planning. Therefore, apart from expanding health care consumer choices through insurance coverage, this strategic plan intends to align the availability of safe and accessible health care services with the needs of the UK population relative to their financial and health situations (Campell et al., 2007, p. 358).
As a result, the strategic plan will promote the use of the latest technological innovations in accessing the health information on different health complications in the larger UK population. In so doing, different health care facilities in the UK will be able to provide accurate and timely services, which consider the interests of the patients by reducing the time wasted in conducting redundant diagnostic procedures and in allocating the costly physician visits (Besley et al., 2008, p. 491).
Here, the critical role to be played by NHS involves implementing and financing the purchase of value-based health information systems and provision of incentives to various health care providers for their positive contribution to desirable patient outcomes. As a result, this strategic objective enables different health care facilities in the UK to provide reliable and cost-effective services thereby promoting public health, patient outcomes, and the quality of life in the UK population (Monheit & Vistnes, 2009, p. 770).
Objective 3: Promoting the quality, cost, and safety of healthcare services
Availability of quality, safe, and cost-effective health care services increase the available consumer choices at different levels of health care service provision. Therefore, the quality and safe services available at different hospitals give the patients the opportunity to obtain quality and timely services at the right cost (Alexander, 2009).
In addition, the need to provide quality and safe services encourage positive competition between different health care providers because both the providers and consumers have the opportunity to compare and make choices between different services and practices in the market. As a result, this strategic objective intends to encourage transparency in the provision of health care services. In so doing, the strategic plan will ensure that the cost of service provision stabilizes; health insurance services are available to the greatest proportion of the UK population, and that health care services are accessible (Grol et al., 2007).
Therefore, NHS in collaboration with the private sector and various employment organizations should ensure that the cost, quality, and safety of health care services improve through encouraging healthcare facilities to communicate, share or exchange health information. In addition, NHS should be actively involved in setting standards that define the quality of health care services and patient outcomes through collaborating with professional doctors and nurses (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2005).
Moreover, NHS can contribute to the improvement of health care services through providing incentives to health care facilities, which offer quality, safe, and competitive services to health care consumers. Another important approach towards providing quality and safe health care is to encourage the use of electronic health records (EHRs). Here, EHRs will enable quick accessibility of health information on the condition of the patient and therefore, the time and cost wasted in making clinical diagnosis is reduced. In addition, EHRs will reduce the risk involved in administering inappropriate clinical interventions. Overall, proper implementation of this strategic objective will not only improve the patient outcomes, but it will also reduce the total cost of providing health care services in the UK (Campell et al., 2007, 360).
Objective 4: To train, recruit, and retain qualified health care professionals
From the discussions above, it is notable that most health care facilities in the UK encounter an increased number of patients per annum. Therefore, the situation is bound to compromise the quality of services and patient outcomes. In addition, the rising number of patients is not adequately aligned with the number of health care professionals in the UK. On the other hand, the UK is projected to face serious shortages in the future. These shortages will greatly compromise the ability of nurses and other public health workers who are involved in providing care to critically-ill patients and those patients who need long-term medical interventions and care (Huwa, 2010).
As a result, this strategic objective is aimed at channeling a portion of the annual NHS budget into the recruitment, training, and retention of health care professionals who are qualified enough to deliver quality services to the greatest number of people within a short period of time.
Despite that this objective may restrain the delivery of other important services such as emergency care and provision of additional medical intervention in the public sector; the long-term benefits involved in implementing the strategic objective are immense (Campell et al., 2007).
For instance, the training program for health care professionals will allow those who are already working to conduct their day-to-day activities while learning new strategies and interventions concerning the emerging challenges in their respective fields. In addition, this objective allows health care workers to learn how to incorporate the latest technologies into their day-to-day activities to achieve the objectives of the evidence-based health care practices (Monheit & Vistnes, 2009, p. 790).
Rationale for Funding
The discussions above show that this strategic plan will not only benefit the federal government in terms of planning for the health budget, but it will also enable the private insurance companies and employers to expand their customer base and the productivity of their employees respectively. In addition, it is worth noting that without this strategic plan, more people will continue to suffer or receive poor services while the government continues to lose funds due to untimely and ineffective planning. Moreover, some medical insurance companies may close down due to the stiff competition for a limited number of people who are willing to pay for their medical services through the private sector.
Therefore, the principle of funding for this strategic plan involves allowing those groups and organizations, which will benefit the most from the successful implementation of the afore-mentioned objectives to provide the funds for the implementation and management of the strategic plan. As a result, the strategic plan should be funded by the federal and regional governments besides the private medical insurance companies and other employment corporations. For instance, the federal and regional governments should channel a certain percentage of their health budgets towards developing and carrying out the strategic plan instead of funding some medical interventions, which may not deliver the required service quality or patient outcomes (Besley et al., 2008).
On the other hand, the medical insurance companies should invest more funds in providing information to potential customers to encourage them to invest the little they have in securing affordable and guaranteed medical services. Furthermore, employers should encourage their employees to contribute part of their monthly salaries towards their medical insurance covers by providing them with the necessary information. In so doing, the employers can be almost certain that the number of sick-days and medical claims made by their employees will reduce significantly.
Evaluation of the Strategic Plan
The evaluation of the success and performance of the strategic plan will begin 6-12 months after the implementation of the first objective and it will be done on an objective-to-objective basis. For instance, to evaluate objective 1, researchers should determine the number of people purchasing insurance premiums from private companies relative to those using the National Insurance services. In so doing, the performance of the plan can be rated as being successful if a reasonable percentage of the population has realized the need to choose from a variety of medical insurance services (Drummond et al., 2005).
On the other hand, objective 2 can be evaluated on the basis of the number of regional governments and States, which are implementing the strategy. As a result, the higher the number of States willing to promote the availability and accessibility of health care services, the better the performance of the strategic plan. Conversely, to evaluate objective 3, there is the need for researchers to determine the number of health care facilities undertaking the use of health information systems such as the Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
On the other hand, the researchers would need to assess the quality of services that the patients are receiving in the same health care facilities. As a result, the researchers can infer the connection between the two variables by comparing the results obtained in the two situations (Drummond et al., 2005).
Lastly, to evaluate the performance of objective 4, there is the need for researchers to consider the percentage of health care professionals who are using evidence-based practices in administering medical interventions to their patients over an extended period of time. In so doing, one can be able to see the importance of training health care workers so that they can incorporate the knowledge they obtain into their day-to-day practices.
Recommendations for Improvements
This strategic plan provides a multifaceted approach that aims at achieving the provision of quality and safe health care services at an affordable cost. However, the implementation of the four objectives at the same time may compromise the delivery of other imperative health care services in different hospitals. Therefore, it is hereby recommended that:
- The strategic plan should be implemented on a State by State or region by region basis over a period of 10-15 years to allow for the complete and accurate evaluation of the plan.
- Furthermore, considering that provision of health care services in the UK is a devolved issue, there is the need to give the regional governments the opportunity to adjust their unique circumstances in such a way that enables them to achieve the objectives of the strategic plan while allowing the normal delivery of health care services.
- Conversely, the permanent residents of the UK should be given the opportunity to share their informed opinions on what they think will need to be added or removed from the strategic plan to allow for the efficient, timely, and effective implementation of the strategic plan without attracting any conflict of interest.
The paper provides an elaborate discussion on the development and implementation of a strategic plan whose aim is to improve the quality, safety, and lower the cost of health care services in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS). From the discussions above, it is notable that the paper discusses four equally important objectives whose successful implementation will see the quality of health care services and the patient outcomes in the UK improving significantly.
However, all the objectives may not be implemented at the same time due to various financial constraints in different parts of the UK. Nonetheless, implementing the strategies on a State by State or region by region basis may give the federal government and regional governments the opportunity to evaluate and plan for the subsequent implementation of the strategic objectives in different regions.
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