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National NHS improvement programme publishes first ever report on independent healthcare

Date of publication: 26th Mar 2021

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The NHS’ Getting it Right First Time (GIRFT) programme have published their first ever review looking at independent healthcare services.

GIRFT – an NHS programme designed to improve the quality of care within the NHS by reducing unwarranted variations – looked into orthopaedics and spinal services in a number of Independent Sector acute care providers including Horder Healthcare, Nuffield Health, Spire Healthcare and Practice Plus, visiting 63 hospitals in total as part of their review published this month.

GIRFT analysed a wide range of independent hospital data, including Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) and registry and professional body data. This data was then examined with the aim of identifying unwarranted variations and areas for improvement around hip and knee replacements, arthroscopy of the knee and shoulder, orthopaedic surgery and spinal procedures, as well as and length of stay and infection rates.

The review identified a number of areas of good practice found in independent providers, including:

  • Assigned infection control nurses who regularly liaised with NHS trusts to monitor patients re-admitted for infections
  • Exemplar standards around theatre productivity in relation to turn around times and laminar flow theatres
  • Low mortality rates; and
  • 7-day physiotherapy services in most sites with excellent relationships between physio and ward staff.

The review also highlighted a number of areas for improvement, including variations in revision rates for hip and knee replacements and data entry to National Joint Registry and British Spine Registry.

Independent healthcare providers were commended by GIRFT in their report, noting the sector’s “real enthusiasm” for the review process, with all staff and the teams involved “engaging positively and proactively”. Going forward, IHPN are working together with GIRFT to help roll out its methodology to a wider set of providers and specialties to ensure the best possible outcomes for all patients.

David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network said:

“Independent healthcare providers are constantly striving to improve the care they deliver to patients, and GIRFT’s review into NHS funded care in the independent sector pilot has been invaluable in enabling providers to gain a more in-depth insight into their work and how they can further drive up standards of care.

“The methodology employed by GIRFT works extremely well since it holds up a mirror to providers and drives reflection and self-improvement using well established benchmarks and broader comparison. IHPN looks forward to continuing to work with GIRFT as the programme is widened to include more providers and different specialties.”

Notes to editors:

  • Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) is a national programme designed to improve patient care, by reducing unwarranted variations in clinical practice. GIRFT helps identify clinical outliers and best practice amongst providers, highlights changes that will improve patient care and outcomes, and delivers efficiencies (such as the reduction of unnecessary procedures) and cost savings.