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Here, there and everywhere

Here, there and everywhere

Healthcare providers are responding to the demand for more integrated care, greater flexibility in how care is delivered and a transformed healthcare model. Mobile units enable greater flexibility as part of the hospital estate, but also mean services can be taken to the patient in a variety of locations. 


Mobile healthcare units have the power to transform the physical infrastructure around the delivery of patient services - and it is a sector that is growing. 


Within the last 12 months, EMS Healthcare has launched the UK's first mobile decontamination unit (Quest+ Decontamination) for endoscope processing as an addition to its extensive fleet of units that are already providing additional capacity for a range of healthcare specialities including ophthalmology, renal dialysis and infusion. 


Another supplier, Vanguard Healthcare Solutions, has developed a unique model of community-based healthcare delivery called Healthportability, which allows providers of all sizes to offer elective and diagnostic services in a community setting using flexible, portable healthcare units. Vanguard already operates the world's largest fleet of mobile healthcare facilities, including theatre units, endoscopy suites, day surgery (including recovery ward), clinics and wards.


In the community

Providing flexible healthcare solutions, including surgery, in the community offers a huge range of benefits for Trusts, CCGs and patients. 


Vanguard Healthcare Solutions explains that by moving appointments for diagnostic procedures and treatment into the community, people can access the care they need locally. 


Clearly budgets won’t stretch to the building of new theatres and the provision of every variety of the specialist equipment and skilled staff to meet each community’s needs, so being able to offer a flexible option which can move between settings, or can be used for a variety of purposes dependent on the needs of the local population is a good option for Trusts seeking to integrate care solutions. 


Taking these procedures into the community relieves pressure on waiting lists, creates capacity for acute hospitals and allows them to better schedule elected care, while still maintaining capacity for non-elected emergency care and prevent cancellations.



This new model allows providers of all sizes to offer a range of elective and diagnostic services in a community setting by using flexible, portable healthcare units. It gives providers great autonomy as they can choose to offer a range of clinical services previously unseen in a community setting and tailored to meet their population’s healthcare needs.  


The portable system works by integrating either permanent or modular facilities - equipped and staffed - with the flexibility of mobile healthcare units to create a ‘Healthport’. This gives providers instant access to quality and fully equipped mobile healthcare facilities where, for example, theatre and/or endoscopy services can be made available on-demand, without capital investment having to be made. 


Vanguard uses a modular ‘dock unit’, which is easily installed whatever the size of the site. This dock unit allows for a seamless transition between either permanent or modular facilities already on the provider’s site and Vanguard’s state-of-the-art mobile healthcare units.


Steve Peak, Director at Vanguard, says: “We advise any provider considering bringing diagnostic or surgery procedures into their community settings to work with our clinical advisors to plan how Healthportability can meet their population’s needs and help them meet their targets. 


“All of our community-based solutions are specifically designed to meet the provider’s needs and create a custom-built care centre based on the size and needs of the community. Vanguard can supply the modular dock alone, or with any combination of its mobile units to create a bespoke service including outpatient consultation rooms, overnight and day bed wards, waiting areas, toilets, wash rooms and recovery areas. 


“For Trusts this mobile system offers a chance to provide services where they are needed, for the time they are needed and in a flexible way. They can help drive uptake for screening and diagnostic procedures as, because they are delivered locally, they are easier to access for patients. 


“They need only pay as long as the demand for the service is there so budgets can be more easily planned and managed. The uniquely flexible nature of mobile theatres offers a more cost-effective solution than might be perceived as there is no long-term commitment and no large capital outlay.”


Mobile units as part of the hospital estate

As well as delivering care closer to the patient's home, mobile medical units are an option that NHS Trusts are turning to for the smooth delivery of patient care during capacity pressures or department refurbishment. EMS Healthcare explains that these mobile units provide a cost effective approach to capacity challenges and are also flexible, meaning units can be deployed quickly, and adapted and relocated easily according to the need.


"Working closely with healthcare providers, we provide bespoke, fully DDA compliant mobile units that can facilitate specialist medical equipment, patient waiting areas, private consultation rooms, scanning rooms, procedure rooms and recovery bays, as well as staff facilities," says Suzie Nield.


Traditionally, mobile medical units were utilised in a reactive way, but with the aging population and more patients at risk of chronic health conditions, capacity strains no longer come as a surprise, meaning issues can be identified earlier. Though little can be done to reduce upcoming demand, Trusts can assess methods of increasing capacity to ensure patients are seen quicker and in a safe and clinical environment.


"What we’re now seeing, is an increasing number of NHS Trusts recognising the benefits of embracing a proactive approach to manage demand. Decision makers are looking ahead and identifying times in the year when they know strain or disruption is likely, and then planning for the use of mobile units during these periods."


Mobile units in action

EMS Healthcare's first pioneering endoscope reprocessing unit was supplied to the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust and was developed working in partnership with reprocessing equipment provider, Cantel Medical (UK). The result was a one-stop solution to the Trust's reprocessing needs. As a result of the implementation of the unit, Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield has been able to avoid a period of sustained disruption to services and patients while vital refurbishment work takes place.


"Mobile units can be deployed quickly and easily with minimal disruption to the hospital estate negating the need for ward closures. Crucially, this ensures continuity of care for patients, alleviating long waiting lists and the risk of patients being stuck in the referral system," says Nield.


EMS Healthcare has also worked with Frimley Park Hospital, widely known for its outstanding ophthalmology department. It provided a cutting-edge solution that could be easily installed to enable Frimley Park to continue its high levels of patient care in the face of possible disruption as a result of waiting list backlogs and crowded hospital environments. The introduction of EMS Healthcare's Liberty unit, comprising two interconnecting 40ft medical trailers that include all the facilities expected of a modern clinic, resulted in an additional 12,500 clinic slots created per year and reduced waiting times from one hour 21 minutes to just 32 minutes on board the unit.


The Frimley Park experience also underlined the capability of flexible and relocatable mobile solutions to improve the patient experience by bringing clinical services to the heart of communities. In a case study, 95% of patients agreed that the units were more convenient thanks to their location being closer to home - important for those unable to travel far - and sited with stress-free, low cost or entirely free parking facilities.


All in the planning

At the core of integrated care solutions is the desire to improve patient experience and achieve greater efficiency from health delivery systems. Mobile units have an important role to play in this model, as they provide the capability to improve efficiencies by speeding up the referral to treatment process and delivering care in the heart of communities. 


Suzie Nield offers one final piece of advice: "I cannot stress the value in proactive planning enough when it comes to implementing mobile solutions - taking this approach allows Trusts to keep on top of increases in demand long before waiting list targets are missed. 


"A key part of this approach is collaboration - we work closely with Trusts who are willing to embrace innovative solutions to help combat their estates challenges. If Trusts are open to discussing the barriers to delivering their services, a mobile solution can be developed to meet their specific needs.


"We understand, however, that health estates and space is not the only issue facing Trusts - staffing can provide just as a big a problem. Planning ahead also provides the opportunity to identify where staffing gaps lie and find a solution."