The role of round the clock urgent primary and community care in healthcare is rarely in the spotlight. Routine primary, secondary and even social care services have much greater public awareness. Yet urgent care providers, weave intricately into the patchwork of all three and deliver solid and consistent care to patients, day in, day out.
Urgent Health UK (UHUK) is a federation of social enterprise healthcare providers who share experience, skills and best practice, collectively improving care up and down the country. This collaboration was essential during the peak of COVID-19 when many providers were on the frontline, responding daily to the ever-changing pandemic. In fact, when the impact of COVID-19 first hit, local, urgent care providers were integral to the tactical and strategic response plans and their local knowledge influenced how healthcare systems coordinated delivering services early on in the pandemic.
Dr John Horrocks, Chief Executive of Urgent Health UK, explained, “Our members are agile and responsive. They deliver a sustainable service that can be mobilised quickly plus they have built up trust through years of delivering excellent clinical care. They are driven to deliver outstanding clinical care, not profit – these factors in combination meant they were perfectly equipped to deal with the pandemic from the outset.”
DHU Health Care, providers of urgent care and NHS 111 services in the East Midlands, is a member of UHUK. As with fellow members, existing services were adapted, and new services were created, mobilised and then de-mobilised, often within days. As well as enhancing the existing 111 service to cope with demand, DHU have been integral to Covid-19 testing in the region.
DHU were also keenly aware of the need to support their staff at this difficult time. A communication platform for employees who had received government issued 12 week shielding letters was quickly established to provide support, positivity, and encouragement. Employees were contacted to participate in weekly video sessions with their colleagues who were also now required to isolate at home.
Stephen Bateman, Chief Executive of DHU commented, “Community Interest Companies like DHU are run as corporate businesses, which means we are efficient, lean and well-run but being social enterprises, any surplus money is reinvested back into services for our patients and support for our staff.”
In a future of uncertainty, one thing is for sure – DHU Health Care and other UHUK members have proven that they will stand up to any challenge to deliver care for their patients. They are the perfect vehicle to drive change across integrated urgent care services up and down the country – it’s finally time for them to take centre stage.