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Hospitals go mobile

Jo Quarterman Jo Quarterman

Published 15 April 2018

Hospitals go mobile Clinical capacity

Newspaper reports in recent weeks have highlighted the current crisis within the NHS, with appointments being cancelled and hospitals lacking the beds and staff they need to meet the needs of a growing number of patients. But the healthcare estate could have a part to play in helping to overcome these problems. In particular, offsite construction methods offer significant opportunities to help address demand and provide the additional infrastructure needed, whether that is solely during the busy winter period, or on a more long-term basis. And, of these methods, mobile buildings perhaps offer the biggest lifeline. Here Suzie Nield, Business Delivery Manager explores how mobile medical units are helping to change how patient care is delivered. 

Looking to the future

Suzie says: “Mobile medical units are an option that NHS trusts are turning to for the smooth delivery of patient care when disruption is suspected, often due to capacity strain, department refurbishment, or to quickly respond to emergency situations. Traditionally, they were utilised in a reactive way, but with the ageing population, and more patients at risk of chronic health conditions, capacity strains no longer come as a surprise, meaning issues can be identified earlier. What we’re now seeing is an increasing number of NHS trusts recognising the benefits of embracing a pro-active approach to managing demand and decision-makers are looking ahead to identify times in the year when they know strain or disruption is likely, and then planning for the use of mobile units during these periods.”

Putting patients first

While units are being used to ease capacity challenges; mobile solutions are also helping to improve the patient experience. “As demands on the NHS continue to rise, ensuring a positive patient experience is going to be extremely important,” says Suzie. Mobile units, in particular, have the capability to offer unprecedented levels of patient care, whether through the convenience of the location for those unable to travel far, or through low-cost, stress-free car parking. The key difference they offer when compared with traditional buildings is, without doubt, the ease and speed of installation.

“Units can be modified to meet needs of hospitals at a fraction of the cost and time associated with relocation within their current estate, or to build new, static premises.” At Frimley Park Hospital there was a waiting list backlog for ophthalmology and to address this, EMS supplied a Liberty mobile unit. Comprising of two interconnecting 40ft medical trailers, the move resulted in an additional 12,500 clinic slots created per year and has reduced waiting times from one hour 21 minutes to just 32 minutes on board the unit.

The right solution

And, at St George’s, a review called for the trust to urgently rebuild its 120-year-old Knightsbridge Wing; leaving the hospital faced with the prospect of relocating its entire renal department to other locations, hospitals, or to satellite dialysis sites. Instead, EMS’s Liberty Quad Renal Unit was brought in and now successfully facilitates uninterrupted services for patients directly at the hospital site and with the same clinical team.

More recently, EMS has unveiled its latest offering, the first mobile decontamination unit for endoscope reprocessing, which was created in conjunction with health trusts across the UK. Previously, in order to maintain service continuity, providers had to either use external decontamination services - an expensive process that can take days to complete - or transfer the decontamination suite to a new location within the hospital estate, which can often result in ward closures. The Quest+ mobile system means hospitals can now continue endoscope reprocessing services on site more cost effectively and without disruption or any impact on capacity.

“It is collaborations such as this that will shape the way mobile solutions are used in the years to come, and means we will almost certainly continue to see mobile units being used across an increasing range of healthcare specialities,” says Suzie. 

Read the full interview with Suzie Nield in Healthcare Design and Management