The NHS is one of the world’s leading free at point of use health care systems, funded in part by the government and UK taxpayer. This public funding model is in contrast to many healthcare systems around the world which use private sector companies and navigate costs to patients through health care insurance or direct payment. With spill over from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is valid concern that waiting lists for elective surgeries and screening are growing in the United Kingdom, with the surgery waiting list recently topping 5 million people. In pay for use services across the world, the smaller number of patients and financial incentive means there are very often short waits for all kinds of treatment. In the United Kingdom, with limited hospital budgets and a growing healthcare deficit, many surgery waiting times are reaching an all-time high. Another weapon in the healthcare arsenal is the use of charity, something which greatly supports care and integration in the NHS. These services provide vital discharge services and even fund specific care for clinical populations – but what role do they play in a free system?
The organisation NHS Charities Together reports that £1 million a day is spent by charities supporting NHS services, funding and deployment across the UK. The alliance has over 200 charities which contribute to its central fund from a range of areas such as mental health charities, ambulance and transport charities, and other specific health awareness charities. When discharged from care facilities or hospitals, there is often a care gap between the hospital and the patient’s home, and eventual recovery. This is due to the negligence of ability to facilitate and care greatly for every individual patient due to demand and funding, and in these instances, patients may recover or have difficulties in their process which preclude more healthcare engagement and cost burden to the NHS.
The service ‘NHS Continuing Care’ is a key tool, supported largely by charities, which enables the transition from formal in-person care to a patient’s home or other facility. The service is valid and available to people with a serious illness or disability. It can cover the costs of accommodation; care need and extra services patients need for support. However, this is open to patients subject to screening and substantial care need. Charities and organisations, however, provide even more support to patients who have less care need – it is not only severely ill patients who deserve support. Charities have a key role in delivering services, influencing legislation and influencing the design of services going forward to facilitate execution and the lengthening of scarce resources.
Charity services in a free at point of care system are a perfect ‘bolt-on’ to tailor care in specific areas alongside the main care of the health system. Often, this is support and care beyond that of the minimum requirements, and covers factors such as screening, therapy, testing and psychological aid. A list of examples include the following;
In conclusion, it charities have a vital part to play in a free at point of use healthcare system and in many ways are propping up certain sectors of the NHS delivery mechanism in the UK. Further funding of their vital services is paramount to maintaining the standard of care and in shortening waiting times for service use and for important interventions.