Following the passage of the Health and Social Care Act through parliament, a new marketplace for healthcare has been ushered in for those who use services in England. Where once the public sector had a monopoly on the provision of healthcare services for people accessing NHS care, now there is a greater degree of freedom for private sector organisations to pick up the running of services with the NHS brand and receive funding directly from the government to do so.
This has opened up a whole host of opportunities for independent healthcare providers to bid for the contracts to provide services under the banner of one of the best known brands in the world. From GP care through to hospital services, everything’s potentially up for grabs.
What the Act means for business
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 changed the way in which the NHS was organised by putting the money to purchase services in the hands of GPs and altering the criteria against which the providers of NHS services are assessed. Principally, the introduction of a clause that enables “any willing provider” to offer healthcare services under the brand of the NHS means that private sector organisations can propose to take over services previously owned and operated by the NHS by making bids against tenders to provide healthcare.
While in the past the requirement was for services to be delivered by state-owned and operated hospitals and other healthcare providers, the requirement to be part of the national infrastructure has been removed. Earlier legislation brought in the requirement for large-scale contracts to be offered out for competitive tender to bring the NHS into line with other industries, and in combination with the removal of restrictions on who can provide care for patients this enables a wider range of potential providers to step into the ring and take up the challenge of offering care for patients in England.
Key areas of influence
The changes to the way in which the NHS is organised has brought about a shift in power from administrative and managerial positions to clinical staff planning and delivering care at the front line. With GPs in charge of making decisions of the future provision of services for the patients in their catchment population, there’s a new landscape for healthcare sector businesses to get to grips with if they’re going to make the most of these new opportunities.
Research at a high level can help gain a better understanding of that new organisational context and give businesses a head start when it comes to finding the key levers to getting their proposals seen by the right people. Market research can also help businesses understand where the gaps will be coming up in the market with the changes to the way in which healthcare is delivered in the future. Alongside changes to the organisation of the NHS, key changes in illness profiles, demographic shifts and the development of new technology all have a role to play in determining where opportunities might arise to enable new products or services to come to market.
The new healthcare structures in England bring with them some real opportunities for businesses providing healthcare services to get a foot-hold in the NHS. Those organisations looking to diversify into hands-on care provision will have the opportunity to bid for contracts that were previously out of bounds. Meanwhile, companies offering products and technology to the NHS need to understand the new systems for commissioning and procurement in order to find the right levers to pull in order to get the rewards for their hard work.
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Written by Nathan Griffiths who recommends looking at http://www.2europe.co.uk/ for business opportunities in healthcare.