Roger EvansSince 2020 FRISQ has a presence in the UK market with a health sector that is now confronting serious post-covid challenges. FRISQ’s UK director Roger Evans here reviews the sector’s current challenges and how FRISQ is best placed to contribute and support this work.

What are the most pressing issues for the UK healthcare market at present?

– Covid 19 has placed immense pressures on the National Health Service (NHS) and has led to a huge increase in elective care waiting lists, largely caused by a huge backlog of people that have not received previous levels of care during the prolonged pandemic. There are intense pressures on staff, leading to many leaving the workforce. These issues are not likely to be resolved soon – a possible further lockdown and increasing numbers of Covid patients in hospital (currently circa 8k) are likely and will exacerbate the problem.

Facts about the current Elective Care situation:

  • There is a backlog of >5.6m ‘non-urgent’ procedures (and rising)
  • >9% of the population waiting for care (and rising)
  • £160m budget has been allocated to try and resolve the problem
  • Patients feel neglected and abandoned, and are questioning when (even if) their required procedures will take place
  • There is therefore both a technical/procedural and a human side to this challenge.
  • The NHS is and will continue to be resource constrained with no way of removing the bottlenecks without transformative solutions.

– In addition, the NHS faces the challenge of addressing the millions of people that suffer from “long covid” or “post covid” as it sometimes is referred to in Sweden. Emerging evidence and patient testimony show a growing number of people who cannot shake off the effects of the virus months after initially falling ill. Symptoms are wide-ranging and fluctuating, and can include breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, anxiety and stress. Whilst studies vary, it is probable that up to one in five people with coronavirus experience longer term symptoms. Around 186,000 people suffer problems for up to 12 weeks, the Office for National Statistics found.

So far over 80 clinics have been set up in England alone to address the healthcare needs of people who suffer from “long covid”. Both the NHS and private care providers are now looking for a digital system that can engage and help these people in a much more effective way.

What are the prospects for transforming health care to encourage and support more patient involvement under these circumstances?

– First – the NHS plan makes it clear that personalisation of care is essential for delivering the outcomes required in terms of both patient care AND efficiency – there is therefore a huge drive for such personalisation of care.

Secondly – the crisis has forced the issue of digital transformation. Technology is being invited into the NHS in ways not seen in the past, with huge potential for organisations such as FRISQ. Programmes are being developed to help innovators support the NHS, in order to transform the way care is provided and to deliver the outcomes and efficiencies (and person-centred care) that policy makers and patients demand.

How is FRISQ approaching the UK market?

– FRISQ is actively pursuing business opportunities in the UK where care providers are looking for tools to allow them to more effectively treat patients with long-term health conditions. We are actively engaging with a number of the newly formed Integrated Clinical Systems (ICS). These ICSs typically are units of 1M+ patients with budgets in excess of £1b. We are working with a number of NHS sectors to develop the FRISQ brand particularly within primary care, and are supported in this work by Sir David Haslam (former chair of NICE) as an advisor. We aim to address a number of potential NHS programmes in COPD, Mental Health and Long Covid at an early stage. We believe FRISQ software tools are ideally suited to address the urgent needs that have been started or intensified by the pandemic and hopeful that we will get our chances to prove that.

How large is the UK healthcare market in economic terms?

– The Department of Health and Social Care budget for 2020/2021 amounts to £212 billion, incl. a £60 billion Covid 19 budget. NHS annual spend 2019 was at £134b (2019) with more than 1.17 million employees. Circa 70% of the NHS’ budget is spent on chronic care, so the market potential is of course considerable.

In addition there is a private healthcare market estimated to be valued at £8.5b in 2018, growing at compound annual growth rate of 2.6% over 2019 to 2025.