For the future, not just the here and now

We talk a lot in the NHS about delivering the right care, at the right time and in the right place. We want our patients to feel that their care is designed around their needs rather than around ours. That they can feel some sense of control over how, when and where they are treated.

The opportunity to design and build a brand new hospital means we can rethink how we deliver care, embracing new and best practice ways of working. It’s an incredibly exciting chance to transform the way we care for and treat our patients.

As you can imagine, this isn’t a straightforward process. It requires a great deal of time, expertise and knowledge. Everything from getting to grips with innovative clinical practice and the latest technologies, to how our local population will change and grow over the decades to come.

So, it was clear to us early on that we’d benefit from some outside help. In May 2020 we recruited a team from leading consultants Grant Thornton to start working with us on our clinical strategy and the new models of care needed to deliver it.

At the same time, we asked them to carry out a ‘demand and capacity’ study which, as the name suggests, shows how the population’s need for our services and facilities will grow or change over the coming years. It helps us determine what needs to go into the hospital. How many MRI scanners, how many operating theatres, and so on.

The demand and capacity modelling was a crucial starting point for us. And it involved looking at the data. Lots of data.

Current patient activity patterns were used to develop projections on future patients’ needs. Demographic and non-demographic changes were factored in with assumptions made on a variety of factors such as length of stay, bed occupancy levels, utilisation and new models of care.

Did you know that residential growth in Harlow and surrounding areas will potentially increase the local population by 36,000? Or that the projected increase in birth rate in Harlow is 5.9%? These figures are based on projected population growth to 2039, and clearly have a direct impact on the services we provide.

Once the demand and capacity study was complete, we were left with a rich set of data that allows us to fully understand how our demand and capacity will evolve into the future. Giving us the best chance of building a new hospital that will adapt and flex to the needs of our population in this generation and the next.

The modelling data has played a vital part in designing not just the layout and size, but the delivery of services in our new hospital. More on that to come in my next blog.

If you are interested in reading further, then we will be publishing our demand and capacity findings on this website soon. We will be reviewing them in light of Covid too, applying everything we’ve learned about successfully coping with a pandemic.

The new Princess Alexandra Hospital is set to be the first new hospital built in our post-pandemic world. By applying our learning, by anticipating our demand and capacity, we will future-proof our services for whatever is around the corner.

Dr Jon Keene
Deputy Medical Director (Strategy)
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