Distilled Post sat down with Chris Adams and Oliver Bailey of Medinet Clinical Services, a leading clinical services provider to the NHS, to talk sustainable solutions and the key to positive partnerships. The NHS Executive Strategy Summit was an opportunity to hear problems and develop solutions to issues that abound across the NHS, and the conversation started with a discussion on what Medinet’s solution entails. Medinet is a clinical services provider, a role that has historically involved insourcing - providing clinical teams to NHS Trusts that are struggling to cope with demand, and working out of un-used space on site (such as empty rooms or theatres) “that represent a cost rather than a benefit to the Trust”. However, “as a business, we’ve always operated by asking the question - what is the barrier to you being able to see more patients? And how can we pivot and adjust our offering to fill that gap?” Chris offered. 

In recent years for Medinet this has led to the introduction of modular facilities. These environmentally sustainable units are constructed on-site for when Trusts require the insourcing of staff to deal with demand but don’t have the capacity to allow for additional clinicians to operate. The introduction of the modular units has been a huge success: “we’ve got state of the art endoscopy suites in car parks that have been used to see hundreds of patients who wouldn’t otherwise be seen”, Chris said.

With the onset of winter pressures never far from the headlines, the benefits of the NHS working with private healthcare companies is clear to see. But Oliver saw the forming of a positive relationship with Trusts as key to the success of initiatives like these. “As a private provider, we’ve always been universally welcomed into the NHS with open arms… But there’s a distinction between private healthcare companies and what we do - we’re all private companies, but our only customer is the NHS. We’re not charging the maximum rate for an endoscopy, we’re working under a tariff”. Chris concurred, adding that “we approach events like the NESS (NHS Executive Strategy Summit) as a partner, not a vendor”. For Medinet, this spirit of partnership and collaboration is key. 

Indeed, Oliver observed that often there is a perception in the private health provider sector that NHS operational managers “know exactly what they want, how they want to do it, and they’re just looking for a company to push the button for them.” But Medinet operate under the assumption that actually, it’s extremely difficult to commission the service you need (from an operational perspective) without thoughtful collaboration between the private provider and the host Trust. “We’re not just offering a menu of services, we’re trying to listen, really understand the challenges for that specific Trust, and come up with innovative ways of delivering those services at the right price point and in the right way.” 

The conversation turned to the question of sustainability, and how companies like Medinet can be sustainable when a key function of their job is ‘fire-fighting’ in times of crisis for the NHS. “We can’t just run in, thrash out a load of activity and run out. We’ve got to be committed to the long term, asking questions like do we understand how the Trust views that whole care pathway?”, Chris asserted. Medinet have adopted a raft of initiatives to ensure that their insourcing has a lasting beneficial impact on the Trust they are supporting.  This has led to initiatives like training programmes for Trust staff and the implementation of A.I. tools to increase diagnostic accuracy. The logic being that Medinet are not only supporting the NHS as it is, but nurturing and developing the individuals who will be its custodians in the future too.  In a more literal sense, sustainability is achieved through multiple means: the modular facilities are constructed using sustainable building materials and methods, and when insourcing, Medinet ensure that clinicians are sent to Trusts local to them, reducing extended periods of travel. 

The conversation concluded with a reflection on the NHS Executive Strategy Summit. Both Oliver and Chris agreed that there was huge value in hearing directly from operational leadership teams at the event, particularly with regards to their collaborative partner-led ethos. They are used to hearing about the pressures facing the NHS, “but what was really powerful about the event specifically was that it created a context where we were able to find out about the layer below the headlines. What do these problems look like on a day to day basis?” For Oliver and Chris, understanding the minutiae of the problems facing NHS staff is the foundation of a positive and collaborative partnership, and the basis for finding the solutions to those problems.