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Towards a better health future: Big Issue partners with Circle Health

Circle Health is Britain’s leading independent hospital group. Chief executive Paolo Pieri explains why they’re supporting Big Issue vendors at Christmas – and beyond

Our mission as the largest independent hospital group in the country is simple: to make people better. So it’s a privilege to partner with The Big Issue this Christmas and invest in their mission to dismantle poverty by extending opportunity – helping to make vendors’ lives better.

Through our partnership, The Big Issue will invest in new training and development opportunities for their vendors, supporting the most vulnerable access the vital skills and experience they need to move forward in their work and lives.

Support The Big Issue and our vendors this Christmas by signing up for a subscription

This has been a miserable year in so many ways, but one of the extraordinary side effects of the pandemic has been different organisations, industries and sectors ripping up normal processes to collaborate in a moment of crisis. ‘Collaboration’ has been a corporate buzzword for decades, but this year we’ve seen its real power unleashed.

The Pfizer vaccine currently being injected into vulnerable people up and down the country is probably the most potent example. Collaboration between an American pharmaceutical company, German scientists and a UK regulator has transformed this country’s prospects for 2021. The Oxford vaccine that also looks set to ride to the rescue next year is the product of an unprecedented collaboration between the university, two private companies, AstraZeneca and Vaccitech, and the UK Government.

In hospital care, we have seen the same power of collaboration this year. Just a few days
after I became CEO of Circle Health Group – a national network of independent hospitals with 16,000 staff, 53 hospitals and 2,500 beds – it became clear that the NHS was going to need all the help it could get to survive this pandemic. We made a decision then to put all our own plans on hold to help support the NHS, and put our entire suite of hospitals, beds and equipment at their disposal.

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Across our sector collectively, we have taken on more than two million NHS patients during the pandemic, and we’re proud to have cared for 300,000 of these patients across our hospitals, often for urgent surgery or cancer treatments.

In addition, we hosted multiple NHS services which transferred from local trusts across the country. In some areas, like Bath, we decided to hand over entire sites to NHS cancer teams to allow immuno-compromised patients to continue treatment; in others like Nottingham, our team stepped up and took on complex cancer surgery for NHS patients in urgent situations.

This type of collaboration between the independent and state sectors is totally unprecedented in healthcare, and was made possible through an incredible can-do spirit from frontline staff. Almost overnight, they transformed gyms, office spaces and general wards into specialist NHS cancer clinics. Receptionists and office staff volunteered to
take on cleaning and healthcare assistant roles. Many clinical staff went through rapid extra training to perform more complex surgery at short notice.

The next area where collaboration across sectors has the potential to be transformative is technology. As a UK-based hospital group, we are constantly scouring the world for the latest and best technologies that will help us in our mission to make people better.  We use American-designed scanners, Spanish back office platforms and Chinese and UK consumer-facing technology.

We believe access to the best healthcare shouldn’t depend on your background. That’s why our vision is to help make people everywhere better, and why we’re so proud to be partnering with The Big Issue this Christmas.

Technology like this has the potential to democratise access to healthcare, making it more inclusive for everyone, as apps and  digital-based care make the best healthcare much more widely available. Who would have thought even a few months ago that we could switch to virtual GP and outpatient appointments almost overnight, making it much easier for a wider range of people to talk to a doctor when they need to?

In 10 years we’ll routinely be asking computers first for a diagnosis, which will look at both our medical history and genetic profile and upload the results to our phones in real time. The hospital setting will change as smartphone blood tests and continuous monitoring through wearable devices become routine. Hospitals will become community hubs for hi-tech medical equipment, with clinicians using specialised robotics and advanced diagnostic kit to deliver more consistent and better outcomes for patients.

So the future of healthcare is digital and inclusive, and we want to be at the forefront of delivering this change, in continuing partnership with the NHS and operating at the heart of local communities across the 53 corners of the country where our hospitals are based. The pandemic has shown us the remarkable power of collaboration when we break down barriers between different industries and sectors: throughout history the private sector has been pivotal in innovating to deliver better and better products that help improve people’s lives.

We believe access to the best healthcare shouldn’t depend on your background.
That’s why our vision is to help make people everywhere better, and why we’re so proud to be partnering with The Big Issue this Christmas.

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Over the last 30 years, your contributions have been vital in providing opportunities for those facing poverty by giving them a hand up, not a hand out. Support us to help thousands more. Buy a copy from your local vendor, donate or subscribe online today.

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