Healthcare has been in my life from the day I was born, and working as a professional in the industry, I continue to come across new challenges faced in healthcare today across the globe.

When I was offered the opportunity to take part in the recent Breaking Barriers Summit in London, I jumped at the chance to take part in an event where leaders from the NHS, private sector and local government in the UK gathered to discuss new, effective models of change in order to tackle the challenges facing the healthcare industry.

Building a sustainable future for health and social care

Whilst the emphasis inevitably differs in individual cases, the challenges faced in healthcare today are broadly the same in each country: an aging population, a surge in chronic disease, technology advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and more informed patients – all factors which are leading to a rise in the cost of healthcare. Yet at the same time, budgets available to treat patients are not keeping pace with demand.

At the Summit, a new report was launched for the UK industry which was co-authored by Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE and the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears, entitled: “Breaking Barriers: Building a Sustainable Future for Health and Social Care.”

The aim of the report is to present a new model for integration and innovation in health and social care in the UK which will help the industry meet the current financial and service demand challenges, focusing on overcoming four principal barriers:

  • Estates and facilities – the infrastructure for service delivery is costly and no longer fit for purpose
  • Workforce – professional barriers can impede joint working practices
  • Financial barriers – the complex way in which health and social care budgets are separated
  • System barriers – the inefficient way in which health and social care systems are currently structured and governed.

The importance of smart shared estates and infrastructure

Royal HaskoningDHV was asked to contribute to the ground-breaking report in order to utilise our international expertise and showcase some ways in which the UK can draw upon the structure of the Dutch healthcare industry.

Taking just the first barrier as one example, hospitals in the Netherlands provide a great example of the infrastructure within and between hospitals. Using examples from other countries where the system works is always a good way to help people understand just what is possible, as well as understanding why it worked, what issues were faced and how they were overcome.

Are we ready to break barriers in the UK?

The Breaking Barriers model demonstrates how collaboration, integration and innovation can be used to overcome these barriers to create a model where we can adopt a whole system approach, and work towards building a sustainable future for health and social care.

Having taken part in the Summit, it is clear that the healthcare industry in the UK is ready for change. All attendees were certainly keen to see transformation, and if we look at how the healthcare industry is set to change in the coming years, we’re excited to be a part of that process.

The first step to seeing this development come to fruition lies in the implementation of smart solutions, understanding different behaviour in hospital processes and putting in place an intelligent and flexible design of healthcare facilities. It usually starts with clear planning of a facility and a master plan – whether that’s a Greenfield project or a refurbishment of an existing hospital.

Whether you work in the private sector, run an individual hospital or are part of the government, the question we all need to be asking is – are we ready for the future of healthcare?

To watch Dirk’s interview from the Breaking Barriers event in full, please click here.