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ERF: what is it and how can it help hospital departments clear the backlog?

Jim Roberts  | 12th October 2021

The Elective Recovery Fund (ERF) is a £1 billion fund made available to help hospitals recover their levels of activity, post COVID-19 pandemic. Outpatient consultations are part of this scope.

In July 2021, services were asked by the NHS’s Chief Financial Officer, Justine Kelly, and National Director of Emergency and Elective Care, Pauline Phillip, to continue planning to restore services fully, to reduce long waits and to transform care consistent with the Long Term Plan. The aim is for up to a third of the face to face appointments delivered in outpatient care to be avoided by 2024, saving £1.1 billion a year and 30 million visits to hospitals. In order to do this, more appointments will have to be delivered remotely.

How does the Elective Recovery Fund work?

The Elective Recovery Fund (ERF) is designed to support NHS healthcare systems to ‘work collaboratively to restore elective services against the backdrop of unprecedented demands on the service because of COVID.

The ERF is promising to support the cost of services working flexibly to take on the additional activity needed to reduce the growing backlog of patients requiring elective services such as outpatient appointments or surgeries. What that really means is that if services can find a way to deliver more appointments and carry out more procedures than they normally would have, they will be paid more for the delivery of services than they would otherwise.

As an extra incentive, the more delivered above ‘normal’ the bigger the pot of money you get. If you can match your activity pre-COVID-19, you’ll get 20% more funding than you would have before, and if you just about match your activity (delivering 95%) you’ll still receive the same amount of funding. For a cash strapped NHS it’s a neat incentive to boost activity but how it is delivered needs to be balanced with the wellbeing of the extremely tired and overworked NHS workforce.

ERF for Outpatients

Access to this funding is time-limited and efforts should be made to tackle those patients on the list who have been waiting the longest.

For outpatients, several activities fall within remit:

  • Outpatient procedures with a published tariff price
  • Outpatient attendances for all treatment function codes, whether consultant or non-consultant led or remote (however this does not apply for mental health, maternity and diagnostic imaging).

The NHS has set out the expectation that services should avoid outpatient attendances of ‘low clinical value’ and redeploy that capacity elsewhere. Where they are needed, ‘at least 25% should be delivered remotely by telephone or video consultation’.

Not sure how much ERF could bring in your hospital? We’ve developed a calculator to help you work this out.

How can we help you receive more funding?

Many hospitals are currently reviewing their video consultation software.  Some have had low uptake with clinicians sticking with telephone for their remote clinics, for a variety of clinical, IT and demographic reasons.

Q health’s combined video/telephone functionality with one-click upgrade/downgrade means lower DNA rates than video alone. The same activity reaches more patients (those with poor connectivity, limited technical ability) and therefore generates more ERF income for the hospital as you can deliver more remote consultations successfully. 

This unique feature increases clinic efficiency as staff spend less time mitigating video calls with poor connections or re-dialling patients and entering phone numbers. If it would be clinically useful, it allows a clinician to upgrade a telephone call to video, knowing that the patient is supported in using an unfamiliar modality if they have been reassured by the clinician. 

Our recent blog highlights that 2 in 5 patients struggle with video consultations due to these reasons; so you need the right software in place to tackle these digital exclusion barriers if 1 in 4 of your consultations need to be delivered remotely.

video consultation comparison

You can see from our graphic above that we also deliver a lot more than the current supplier you’re likely to be using. Small things that make your day easier include NHS Single Sign-On, PAS/EPR integration and a range of in-consultation features such as background blurring and the ability to zoom in on a patient’s video feed.

“The system has great flexibility for the different ways we manage appointment ledgers and rotas in our clinics. I see many of my patients over Q health and have found it great to work alongside my clinical systems.”

Support for patients and clinicians

Jessica Aylett, LCHS NHS Trust Clinician

We’re not just focused on functionality though. Q health is quick to set up, easy to administer and we’re on hand to support you with any queries between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week. We can also support any patients who have queries about using remote consultations so that those questions aren’t being picked up by already overworked team members in your department.

Customisable post-consultations questionnaires allow you to ask for instant feedback from both patients and clinicians. This all feeds into a live dashboard, so you can get instant feedback on virtual consultations at all times and refine any processes that can lead to improved attendance rates (such as reminders for patients prior to their consultation) or troubleshoot any technical issues quickly.

Not sure how much moving to Q health for your combined video and telephone consultations could bring you in ERF funding?

Use our calculator to get an idea and reach out to us for a conversation or to sign up to a free trial!