Healthcare services across the United Kingdom continue to experience increasing demand, as a growing number of constituents look to access primary healthcare services, and larger parts of the population begin to retire. 

These and other factors, including over-utilization, budget constraints, and lack of partnership have placed immense stress on the healthcare system. The UK ranked 15th in the 2022 World Index of Healthcare Innovation, falling five places from 2021, and two places from 2020. 

To ensure the progress of the public healthcare system, the UK government, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have developed and implemented corporate and clinical governance strategies to encourage a relationship between the public and private sector.

These efforts ensure that public healthcare organisations have the necessary access to materials, tools and clinical resources produced within the private sector. Through public procurement, the DHSC, NHS, and wider healthcare network can jointly work with the private sector to ensure quality, safe, and high-performing healthcare services. 

Clinical Governance 

As part of the process to develop a more accessible healthcare system, the DHSC, and NHS organisations have developed a clinical governance strategy that allows them to meet their needs, and fulfil their public duties. 

What is clinical governance in healthcare? 

In the context of the United Kingdom, clinical governance is considered a framework through which the DHSC and NHS remain accountable for continuously providing, improving and safeguarding quality care. 

To encourage better use of these strategies, the NHS has developed an agenda through which it ensures that both healthcare providers and private sellers meet their quality standards

Audit and monitoring

Healthcare professionals are encouraged to provide quality assessments in their departments and maintain and monitor their necessary action plans. 

Quality and safety performance

Quality improvement strategies ensure that all healthcare professionals are equipped with the necessary experience and knowledge, and can effectively assess interventions and the outcomes thereof. 

Patient safety

Safety remains a critical point in the clinical governance agenda, and both healthcare professionals and private sellers to the government are required to meet regulated healthcare safety procedure standards. This ensures the safe and effective treatment of patients. 

Environmental cleanliness and IPC

Healthcare professionals and private businesses that look to practise good governance in healthcare will need to understand the importance of workplace cleanliness and follow the principles of the Health and Social Care Act to improve the environmental structure of the entire healthcare network. 

Safeguarding all people

To protect and safeguard all adults and children, professionals and suppliers need to understand and implement safety guidelines developed by NHS England. 

Debriefing and learning from practice

Setting patient and physical conditions requires every link in the chain to effectively communicate pain points, debrief problems and seek solution-based approaches.

Through clinical governance, the DHSC and NHS can set quality standards for all participants, professionals and organisations. This agenda helps to create a more transparent healthcare system, whereby professionals and organisations in the private sector will move closer towards quality care, and work as a multidisciplinary network. 

Corporate governance 

To ensure good governance in healthcare, and follow government policies on healthcare UK, transparent and forward-looking practices help organisations and professionals access quality services and resources within the procurement system. While private sellers have become an integral part of the healthcare system, they need to fulfil their part and comply with industry quality standards.

  • Private sellers and organisations should have an existing and appropriate governance structure. 
  • Decision-making in private healthcare organisations should be supported by an assurance framework. 
  • A clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of trustees and senior management.
  • Provide an effective financial risk management assessment.
  • Outline a risk management process.
  • Provide insight on patient safety protocols.
  • Supportive leadership and culture that provides a positive professional development environment. 
  • Private organisations should be managed and led by fit management. 
  • Ensure delivery of patient outcomes within clinical care and clinical audit.
  • Appropriate delivery of financial information. 
  • Collaborate with local partners and public healthcare services. 
  • Understand changes within the public healthcare policy.
  • Identify challenges and manage risk effectively. 

These corporate governance structures allow the DHSC and NHS to carefully evaluate the abilities of private sellers before they can deliver high quality care and measure risk assessments.. More than this, this ensures that private companies comply, and follow the standard procedures amended by government policy. 

What’s more, these practices ensure that other branches, including clinical governance and information governance in healthcare, are effectively implemented to provide quality healthcare and safeguard patients throughout the process. 

Information governance 

One of the last branches that forms the overarching umbrella of healthcare governance is the protection and safeguarding of patient and provider information. This data has become increasingly valuable to private companies, and organisations, looking to better understand the direct needs of the healthcare system, and how they can align their strategies to ensure they can fulfil the demand of buyers more adequately. 

While this information gives them clear insight and helps them create a forward-looking plan, that includes effective risk and financial management, and problem-solving strategies, ensuring this information is not misused, or redistributed can become a challenge for any public organisation. 

Information governance forms a big part of the national healthcare system, but more importantly, how this information is used, distributed, collected and stored. 

To ensure that any information, or data is protected, the government has introduced a string of policies and laws to help safeguard patient information in the healthcare system. Some of these include:

  • Code of Practice on Confidential Information
  • Access to Health Records Act
  • Computer Misuse Act
  • Data Protection legislation – UK Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR)
  • Information Security Management: NHS Code of Practice
  • Network and Information Systems (NIS) Regulations 2018
  • Records Management Code of Practice 2021
  • Freedom of Information Act

These and many others have helped healthcare providers securely collect, harbour and distribute the necessary information to any private organisation or seller. 

This however means that private businesses will need to comply with both these laws, any additional code of conduct, and healthcare confidential practices to become trusted partners of the DHSC or NHS, but more importantly practise effective data management.

The challenge is ensuring that private businesses and companies comply with these statutes. Instead, it requires that businesses use all three branches – clinical, corporate, and information governance – in unison to measure their level of compliance within a regulated framework. 

Becoming a seller in a digital age means that businesses will need to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and experience through effective models of application. More importantly, they will need to provide clear outlines in terms of their governance, and how this has been implemented and managed to meet industry quality standards. 

Meeting the needs 

As we’ve seen, there is often more that goes into a public tender or contract than what meets the eye. For starters, the Department of Health and Social Care constitutes a high degree of clinical governance that is practised by the NHS to ensure access to safe and quality healthcare for all constituents. 

More than this, corporate governance not only plays a part in the public sector but for private sellers, there are key elements of operation that they need to follow and provide information on. 

Finally, information governance oversees the collection and storage of patient data. More than this, it looks to build a highly regulated, and standardised framework that ensures patient information is kept safe, and distributed to trusted private organisations when needed. 

All of these branches or elements ensure that a health partnership between the public and private sector can be fostered, but more importantly, meets the needs and fulfils the demands of the public healthcare system.