Building Healthcare Resilience Through Communities
Our healthcare system will be under significant strain for the foreseeable future. Even when the threat of Covid-19 has eventually receded there will still be a huge backlog of routine and non-urgent treatments that had to be postponed because hospitals were full.
It’s worth considering where services are best delivered and whether main hospitals are the most appropriate settings. Should the focus for main hospitals be on specialist care and greater flexibility to deal with unplanned demand and large scale emergencies such as future pandemics? And should more services be delivered through community settings?
Moving more services out into communities has many advantages. The move would take pressure off main hospitals so they can focus on those with acute and complex needs. Services would also become more accessible and could be better integrated with initiatives to address underlying causes of poor health.
Providing services locally would also contribute to the NHS zero carbon strategy as fewer car journeys would be needed. This advantage has been noted by the BMJ and others when analysing how to make healthcare more sustainable and resilient.
How to Build Community Healthcare Capacity Efficiently
There are many health centres across the country that already offer an expanded range of services to local communities. These work well for patients and practitioners. The question is how best to expand on this model to reach even more people with a wider range of services, including minor surgery.
Building or expanding community-based facilities presents a number of practical issues. Site access is one of these if facilities are going to be provided in the heart of communities rather than on the periphery (walk-in should mean exactly what it says). Building programmes also need to be rapid and efficient to avoid lengthy and disruptive construction works.
Inevitably, these factors point to offsite construction solutions that are proven to deliver high quality and energy efficient buildings within a short timescale and a controllable budget. Offsite methods are not limited to standard sized boxes. Panelised methods are highly flexible when it comes to the size, shape and appearance of the buildings created.
Expanded healthcare provision through GP surgeries and health centres will play an important part in building resilience. Offsite construction will ensure that this can be achieved cost-effectively and reliably.