The world of working in the UK’s health service is a tough one for most of us, especially as the NHS prepares to be handed the keys to the kingdom.
The NHS is one of the fastest growing parts of the economy, attracting new patients and boosting its finances every year.
But, despite that success, the NHS has also been criticised for being overly reliant on the work of consultants.
The Government has already spent £300m on consultants to replace GP doctors, but it is thought it could go further with a further £2.4bn investment to modernise its healthcare system.
The Government hopes this will lead to better health outcomes, less hospital waiting times, and faster growth in the number of GP doctors.
The NHS’s reliance on consultants, however, comes at a cost.
“They’re incredibly stressful and they’re expensive,” says Dr Rachel Withers, clinical director of the NHS’s consultant-based NHS Consultants Programme (NCPP).
“They do take up a lot of time and they are very expensive.”
In an ideal world, she says, all doctors would be on-call 24/7 and could be seen by a single doctor, but in reality, this can be difficult for some to achieve.
“If a GP is on-site then you’re on-staff for six days a week, which means you’re often out of time to be in touch with people or in a meeting with a GP,” she explains.
“You may be doing work in another office but you’re only able to do that on the weekend.”
So it’s not ideal, and it’s a challenge to be able to have all your staff around at the same time and not have to spend time at home.”
Dr Witheres says she wants to work with other health professions to make their practices more agile, so that doctors can have more time to see patients.”
We need to find ways to work better with doctors,” she says.”
I think it’s important for us to be as agile as possible.
“One of the things we want to do is to improve the efficiency of the team so that if you have a doctor who’s doing two surgeries, it’s really not as time-consuming as it might be to have two doctors on-scene at the time of a surgery.”
The NCPP currently runs an eight-week training course for consultants, with the aim of getting more people in training to work for the NHS.
Dr Wethers says the programme is a “good way to get started” but adds it will be a while before doctors are able to work in a fully collaborative environment.
In the meantime, she is working on a book to help other health professionals get more creative with their work.
“It’s a book called ‘A Guide to Working as a Consultant’,” she says.
“I hope it’ll be useful for people in other professions, and I hope that it’ll help people understand what the value of working as a consultant is, and what the benefits of working on behalf of the people we serve.”
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