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‘Hospitals could learn from supermarkets’

Prof. Keith Willett, who led Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of urgent and emergency care, told a Westminster health forum this week that hospitals are too inflexible to meet patient’s demands and could learn from the way supermarkets cater for changes in demand from customers by paying more attention to variations in what care is needed by patients rather than trying to fit them into a rigid system.
Supermarkets use information like the weather forecast and the till roll at nine o’clock in the morning to predict which items shoppers will want when stocking their shelves, he said, whereas “our idea of season variation or predictive modelling is patients in corridors and outliers”.
Prof. Willett said that greater flexibility throughout the NHS could ease the burden on emergency cuts.
Speaking at the same event, Stephen Dorrell MP, the Chairman of the Health Select Committee, warned that hospitals are in danger of becoming “warehouses” for bed-blocking elderly patients due to poor planning, and questioned recent figures presented to the Select Committee by government ministers claiming that the problem of bed blocking was declining.

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