I recently visited an award winning small hospital and saw for myself how a team of dedicated health professionals can provide an excellent level of service on many levels, including surgery and other clinical procedures that we might normally associate with acute hospitals. I also understood that these facilities were under-utilised due a a lack of referrals. I suspect this situation is by no means confined to the hospital i visited and may be a function of its location etc, but i am also inclined to the view that the marketing of such facilities is poor and needs to be improved so that patients can make their own informed choices about where they wish to be treated.
I recently visited a premier hospital in India where they had deployed mobile eye hospitals that went out into the community and delivered eye clinics and cataract operations local to patients. This model could work well in the UK, moving away from traditional hospital based services, it tackles capacity issues in hospitals, large building costs and overheads, in addition it works in a more integrated way helping smaller acute trusts to work more closely with primary care services. Most encouragingly it takes the hospital services to the patient. This will be even more important considering exponential rises in the elderly population. Trusts would also attract greater visibility of their brand within the population they serve. Essentially staff working closer to their community will gain better knowledge of and communication with their consumers.