Independent healthcare provider boss says building relationships and sharing information are key to a better NHS.
There are many challenges facing the NHS - tightening budgets, pressure on services and addressing a staffing shortfall.
As the chief executive of independent provider One Medical Group. Rachel Beverley-Stevenson sees these on a daily basis.
One Medical, an NHS property developer and primary care services firm, has as its vision being “ready to challenge tradition to shape the future of healthcare”, she says.
“While there’s some really great stuff and really good tradition within the NHS, there’s also a lot that could be done better,” she says.
“Sometimes it takes a different approach to solve some of those problems.”
Beverley-Stevenson co-founded One Medical in 2004, with the backing of three local businessmen.
The £14m-turnover business develops primary care premises for the NHS, as well as delivering GP and urgent care services.
Since launching, it has developed a portfolio of 14 premises and 16 primary care centres across the country.
It now centres in Yorkshire, North-East Lincolnshire, East Midlands, Cumbria, Berkshire and Somerset.
As with many things in life, Beverley-Stevenson says her initial entrance into the healthcare sector was “a bit of an accident.”
After returning to the UK following a period working for vehicle telematics firm Minorplanet’s Asia Pacific business, Beverley-Stevenson was asked to research the healthcare property sector.
She says: “It was three years after Tony Blair’s 2001 NHS plan, which undertook to invest a lot of money into healthcare until 2008.
“There was clearly a market, I presented my findings and they said, ‘you go and do it’.
“It was quite scary, but with a bit of luck and some good support we set up One Medical.”
Originally launched solely as a property company, the business branched out into care provision with One Medicare in 2006.
“I could see that by really understanding how people deliver care, you can design better buildings,” she says.
The firm also felt it could “do a better job of delivering care” as an independent provider.
“While there’s some amazing people in the NHS, there’s an awful lot of waste, there’s too many systems and processes, there’s too much bureaucracy,” she says.
“We really wanted to approach it from a different angle.”
Building relationships has been key to the group’s success. It won its first contract to build a medical centre in Cleethorpes just five months after launching. This has since led to other work in both care and property in North-East Lincolnshire.
“We won tender because we built relationships with the people who hold the purse strings,” she says.
“We’ve still got those relationships 10 years on.
“It definitely is about understanding what people need, what the needs of the populations are and being able to shape your offer to that.”
One Medical has a patients-first ethos, Beverley-Stevenson says, putting communities at the heart of its services.
Patient education is an important part of this - connecting people to other services and support.
She says: “Part of our model is patient education centres or support and advice hubs.
“We actively go out and approach other third sector organisations, other healthcare providers, mental health charities, and bring them in as far as we can into our services.”
As well as helping patients, it can help the NHS, she says.
Data suggests that between 30 and 40 per cent of patients in primary care do not need to see a GP.
“These are highly-skilled clinicians who should be there almost as a second point of contact,” Beverley-Stevenson says.
“There are other really skilled clinicians like nurses and healthcare assistants, and also non-clinical staff who could be supporting these patients.”
The group has invested in technology to help its centres tackle the problem.
“You can’t drive change and understand what you need to do if you don’t know why people are coming to you, how often they’re coming, what clinicians you have on, how productive are they, what learning would make them more productive.
“General practice hasn’t been particularly great at sharing data, it wasn’t set up to do that. Now it very much is about working together.”
For existing surgeries, One Medical offers everything from facilities management, to premises purchase and lease-back arrangements, to practices and GPs joining the group’s care centres.
For some practices, it’s a welcome opportunity to join a network that can provide support in what can often be a “quite isolating” profession, Beverley-Stevenson says.
As for the controversy of independent providers in he NHS, the debate is often misunderstood, she says.
“Independent operators have been in the NHS since it started,” she says.
“GPs are independent operators. It is amazing how many people don’t know that.
“Pharmacists, opticians, dentists, they’re all independent. Independent contracting is nothing new.
“And without the independent sector, the NHS would be really struggling.”
In her experience, accusations about profiteering are far from true.
“There are easier ways to make money, there really are,” she adds. “You don’t do this to make a massive profit, you do it to make things better.”
Title: Chief executive of One Medical Group
Date of birth: 12/11/1972
Education: School: Gateways. University: University of London Goldsmiths studying French and German Interdisciplinary Studies
First job: Sweet Shop in Bramhope then after university working on the Pager and Mobile help desk
Favourite holiday destination: Scotland
Favourite film: Dirty Dancing
Favourite song: Depends what mood I am in – Love cats by the Cure or Paul Simmons
Last book read: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Car driven: Jeep
Most proud of: Family and my business and everyone who is part of the team