UK Healthcare Delegation: Bringing Insight from Across the Pond



May 2, 2017

At the end of last month, I travelled to the UK with a healthcare delegation from the U.S. It was a historic time to be in the UK.  On March 29, Article 50 was exercised with the delivery of the Brexit letter to the EU.  Two days later, the National Health Service (NHS) unveiled its five-year forward plan for the UK public healthcare system and broader healthcare landscape.

The week was a whirlwind, including five hospital visits and meetings with executive leadership in the private healthcare sector, including the CEO of HCA London Operations and the CEO of Priory, the largest behavioral health provider in the UK.

Though long and tiring, the trip was also exhilarating.  As was clear in my discussions with healthcare leaders, the UK is in a period of dynamic change. I forecast this will have major implications for healthcare’s agenda in the next several years, largely a result of Brexit, NHS, and its Five Year Forward View.  Though I don’t pretend to understand all of Brexit’s implications, one key implication I understand is the potential for dramatic workforce shifts in healthcare, among other industries.  Reasons for the shift include pound depreciation relative to other EU currencies and other employment opportunities in home countries.

Fletcher Lance with former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Lord Snape at the House of Lords.

Fletcher Lance with former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Lord Snape at the House of Lords

The NHS is a bit of a national treasure in the UK.  Care is truly universal with some of the top research institutes in the world, including Royal Marsden. During my trip, I visited Royal Marsden and learned it’s the No. 4 cancer institute in the world, as well as the world’s first hospital, founded in the late 1800s and dedicated solely to cancer care.

For U.S. readers, the NHS is much like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the U.S. Aligned not only in function, both organizations’ agendas have been shaped by similar socioeconomic trends in the past several years. The NHS today is dealing with unprecedented pressures.  It’s almost exactly where the U.S. had been when the Affordable Care Act was implemented.  An aging population, chronic disease, higher cost interventions, and long wait times for service are all pressuring the NHS’ operating model—resulting in the release of a new five-year plan.

Just as Obamacare drove seismic shifts in healthcare’s priorities, I believe the same will be true for NHS in the UK.  I see changes on several key dimensions:

  • An increased focus on efficiency and process
  • Greater need for improved patient experience
  • Balance of care in private vs. public sectors. The private sector will need to fill the impending gaps in care that NHS will leave in areas such as cancer care and behavioral health.
  • Unlocking and scaling new co-opetition opportunities between private sector and NHS
  • Addressing an estimated 75,000 short fall in healthcare staff.

I visited the UK as the country finds itself on the cusp of major shifts in both the healthcare and national landscape. My meetings and discussions with UK healthcare leaders, paired with insight from recent U.S. industry trends, begins to paint a picture of the future state of the UK healthcare agenda.