The private sector will find opportunities opening as the UK moves NHS secondary healthcare services out of hospitals and into community based settings, according to Laing & Buisson.
Research from healthcare market intelligence provider argues the move will bring benefits to both patients and taxpayers in terms of more convenient and more efficient healthcare services.
The ‘Primary Care and Out of Hospital Services UK Market Report 2011/12', claims the underlying driver of the move is the country's ageing population allied with a long standing shift in the burden of healthcare to chronic conditions of old age.
The report said that, since the NHS cannot currently afford to invest, services such as primary medical care, occupational health, community health, prison healthcare and commissioning support will largely have to re-locate into facilities which already exist.
These sites will include community health assets encompassing community hospitals and clinics, GP surgeries, care homes, people's own homes (ie home healthcare) - and indeed back into freed up space on NHS acute hospital sites, though under different management and ownership arrangements.
Laing and Buisson said these new areas of off-site healthcare provide massive opportunities in marketplaces together worth billions of pounds.
It said; "In a ‘zero growth' NHS, building these services will depend on money being transferred from hospitals, which currently absorb the lion's share of resources and ploughed into these new areas - with significant openings for independent providers to step up."
Speaking at the launch of the report, author William Laing commented: "Nearly all of the potential migration of services out of hospital will depend on politicians being willing to support the decommissioning of at least a portion of acute NHS hospital capacity currently used to care for mainly older people admitted as emergencies to medical wards, most of whom do not actually need to be in hospital.
"Without closure, partial closure or re-use of some NHS acute hospital capacity, none of the theoretical savings from the creation of alternative community based healthcare services will be ‘cashable'."
Looking ahead at how a future healthcare landscape might look, he added:
‘The district general hospital of the future, provided it is well served by transport, might even develop into something akin to a ‘medical mall', to borrow a term from the United States, in which healthcare services operated by a range of providers are co-located on a site together with healthcare support companies and other retail or commercial services.'
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