Friday, 25 March 2011

Sharing the risk - creaming the profits

The King's Fund demonstrate their true colours again, according to the GP magazine 'Pulse':
The King’s Fund has called for entire care pathways to be outsourced to private firms, claiming GPs do not have the time to make the required service re-design in primary care demanded by the NHS reforms.
What I don't understand is what all this talk of 'risk sharing', e.g.

‘GPs can set the standards but consortia will ultimately want to commission organisations to take on the risk.’
...a risk sharing model which would see private firms take on service re-design and practice performance management in return for receiving financial incentives
Now I understand the concept of paying someone for a service, say 'service re-design' or 'practice performance management' but what does it mean to 'share the risk'? It sounds rather asymmetrical, as if you pay a company to take on service commissioning and if it goes badly, well hard luck, you've already paid them, and if it goes well they get a nice big slice of 'performance bonus' to ice the cake - 'heads I win, tails you lose' - and that model's never gone wrong before, and certainly not in the NHS. Good job there will be no financial incentives or conflicts of interest to motivate GPs to adopt that model.

Of course I have absolutely no idea what these ‘integrated pathway hubs’ even mean:
...musculoskeletal, respiratory, and frail and elderly care the first three pathways lined up to go out to tender.
Does this mean that GPs will no longer be required to know any respiratory or musculoskeletal medicine, or to deal with older patients? The patients will refer themselves to the right 'pathway' presumably ('I've got pain in my chest, I guess that's my lungs, better go to the respiratory pathway hub').

One wonders how efficient it will seem when all the respiratory or elderly care outpatient work is taken away from the general hospital to be focused in the 'integrated pathway hub' - when suddenly the acute hospital has no money to keep a respiratory team going, no one to put in chest drains, no one to give expert opinion on difficult chest cases - instead they're having to purchase services from these private providers under their 'service level agreement'. What is the ultimate goal - A&E as a glorified NHS call centre referring you to this or that private company and 'care pathway'? Each care pathway 'integrated' with itself but absolutely no flexibility to cover the messy multiple comorbidities that cross the individual pathway boundaries and make up the real cases seen in everyday medicine. Still, at least it will save money.

Or is it that a 'care pathway' in this case is just one of those referral centres we've seen implemented in areas like musculoskeletal medicine? Staffed with clerical drones who click 'computer says no' and sends the referral back to the GP to ask a physiotherapist to waste their time looking at for six weeks before these moronic box-ticking gate keepers will approve the referral being sent back again - presumably hoping the patient has died or given up in the mean time. For those interested it looks like these care pathways will be like this sort of thing - if my experience is anything to go by they will be vague, inflexible, allow referral centre drones to bounce back anything remotely complicated (because they don't know what the words mean and thus assume it doesn't matter) and ultimately end up with enormously wasted time and duplicated effort. Vive la Revolution!

1 comment:

Michael said...

Simply, sharing the risk is the company providing the service (e.g. pathway redesign) will make an investment against a business case and will share any profit or risk associated with delivery.

The model may only allow a company to be paid if the proposed return on investment is realised.

No win no fee.

With very high risk projects (e.g. where nobody can be sure that a saving or better outcome can be delivered because it has never been tried before or delivery is dependent on a third party out of control of the project delivery team) there may be a retainer and a bonus scheme -- risk of delivery is shared (both sides have invested and both sides stand to benefit from delivery).