The healthcare landscape is changing - can Interim Management help manage change and seize opportunities?

Andrew Vaux, Head of Independent Health and Social Care  at Practicus, looks at whether Interim Management help independent healthcare providers manage change and seize opportunities in a changing healthcare landscape 

Today’s reality is COVID is endemic and will need to be factored into healthcare planning such as prevention measures, capacity management and sustained vaccination programmes.

Indeed, the response to the pandemic by healthcare providers is causing seismic shifts in how and where care is provided. This is reflected in the way the independent sector boosted NHS capacity in staff, facilities, and diagnostics; the Government is investing in community diagnostic facilities and data sharing initiatives; technology innovation was speeded up and embedded into healthcare provision.

Before the crisis, the NHS, was largely focused on designing pathways to enable faster re-use of beds. Now, the focus has shifted to separating ancillary functions, like lab tests and imaging, from the core in-premise hospital operations and services. A move designed to speed up diagnostics and make them more accessible. At the same time, the commissioning landscape is being overhauled and re-aligned into Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).

This sets a promising backdrop for continued collaboration between independent providers and the NHS to build out in areas that work best. There are opportunities to support NHS objectives not only to manage the chronic backlog, but also to create a better healthcare system, where expertise and resources can be pooled for a common purpose – the improved health of the nation.

Seizing opportunities in this changing landscape will require additional expertise and resources. Using experienced Interim Managers can be a smart route to achieving effective transformation, managing turnaround situations, or plugging vital skills gaps.

The ‘at cost’ arrangement struck by NHS England and independent hospitals last year will undoubtedly have impacted financial targets and presented challenges for the leadership teams. This year, the story is one of increasing demand for services such as diagnostics and beds, either through directly supporting the NHS elective care recovery plans or because of a rise in self-pay services.

Future success for providers may be determined by their agility in dealing with specific challenges while responding to new opportunities with flexibility and speed. There are some pressures, which can be alleviated with the use of highly focused interim project / programme managers so as not put additional pressure on already stretched teams.

Skilled Interims are often hired to tackle defined challenges with their specialist skills. For example, they can be used to: manage the workload involved in delivering NHS contracted services to relieve the backlog; reinforce teams struggling to maintain project scope and schedules; help develop plans that prepare for an uncertain future; and harness new technology to deliver workflow productivity and care efficiencies.

Interim Management is defined as “a prompt practical solution to a business problem by attracting high-class senior managers for a designated period of time”. Interims are often specifically contracted to help organisations to implement change; fill unexpected critical gaps (such as, GM, Finance, HR, Operations, etc); and staff projects with the best skills for success.

By being flexible and used to working anywhere, they can quickly be in place to pick up the reins, even with today’s new world of remote working. They bring added value to the position because of their knowledge and their experience. On average, interim managers have twenty to thirty years of background in the industry. They understand the challenges and have often seen and dealt with them before, so they really can make a vital contribution, sometimes even by avoiding costly mistakes.

Organisations sometimes avoid interim solutions because they feel it is cost prohibitive. However, considering the cost of a permanent employee, the equivalent daily rate of an interim is reasonable, and can bring better value and increased results more quickly. The interim manager charges only for the days worked, with no additional national insurance contribution payments, employee tax, holidays, or pension payments. An interim solution can be a full-time, part-time, or project based, with different terms for each.

With primary accountability for the project’s timelines and budgets, the Interim’s reputation is heavily aligned and invested in project success. When the project is complete, they are gone, and without the cost of severance, but often leaving a rich legacy of know how and upskilling among the in-house team that worked with them.

Now Interim management is better understood.  Would you hire one in your independent environment, if you don’t already?