During this pandemic, the NHS has been front and centre, dealing with unprecedented demand – something which we, as a country, are united in gratitude for. The response to coronavirus has seen the greatest mobilisation of public services in our lifetime, with the police, army, social care and other public services all supporting the NHS. It’s a time when our impatience with the falling numbers of police on the streets or escalating waiting times to see hospital doctors takes a back seat to our appreciation of these public services, which we are all guilty of taking for granted.
But our public services will have to pay a price for this mammoth effort. When our lives return to normal, whenever that may be, for the majority of us that will mean heading back into the office, going for dinner with friends, spending time with family and tending to the small things, like getting a haircut or a manicure. For public sector workers, however, stepping back into normal will be a less easy transition and one that will be centred around playing catch up.
Getting back to BAU
Whilst they have been heroically managing high numbers of patients with coronavirus, waiting lists have been building, other demands have been neglected. When they get back to their business as usual, healthcare professionals will be facing backlogs of surgeries, appointments, therapies and treatments. There will be a monumental surge in demand for all the medical requirements that have been put on ice in this most extraordinary of times. And applying standard ways of working won’t cut the mustard.
16.5% of the UK workforce work in the public sector according to the Office for National Statistics (March 2018), the lowest level since recording began in 1999 and during the crisis, that number has swelled, buoyed by volunteers, donations and goodwill. But what happens to this workforce who might not have had the opportunity to take any leave for six months? Physically and psychologically exhausted, how will they be supported in getting back to their normal?
Innovative delivery approaches
There are no easy answers, but there is a real opportunity at this moment in time to gather ideas, remove any obstacles to getting change delivered and hot house implementation of delivery approaches that will support our public sector for the future. Such opportunities might include:
- Use of personal technology to support diagnostics
- Online medical consultations
- Rationalising physical estate for office-based activity
- National co-ordination of policing for large events
- Virtual schooling
- Voting by mobile phone app
- Online examinations.
And so much more. The Public sector as a whole had to pivot rapidly at the start of the outbreak. Technological advancements were delivered overnight – GPs have been conducting consultations online, prescriptions have been sanctioned virtually – and these developments will form the foundation stone of innovations that will be our ‘new normal’ – but it will require bold and brave decisions being made on a national level.
It’s worth reflecting that the founding of the NHS was the centre piece of the UK’s World War Two recovery. And she will take her place again as we re-build post COVID-19. And I’m excited to see what that positive legacy will be. If nothing else, history shows us that in times of immense hardship, we are capable of achieving great things.
P2 is a management consultancy delivering end to end programmes of change in the public and private sector, come talk to us about what you want to achieve.