Health secretary lays out plans for future of NHS tech

In his speech, the health secretary stated that the NHS “must not fall back into bad habits”, and stated that consultations should be done virtually, over the phone or video chat, unless there is a good reason to give one in person, such as an emergency.

“If they are able to, patients should get in contact first via the web or by calling in advance,” said Hancock. “That way care is easier to manage and the NHS can deliver a much better service.

“Not only will it make life quicker and easier for patients but free up clinicians to concentrate on what really matters.”

Delivering the notion that some changes that were made within the NHS due to the pandemic should continue to be implemented, Hancock said that public healthcare must shift towards “Zoom medicine”.

The health secretary went on to declare an aim to enable NHS staff to think of ways to improve their use of tech to provide services.

“If you’re a porter, thinking about how you can use technology to optimise your routes around the hospital, or if you’re a ward matron thinking about how you run your ward, get on and make the improvements,” he said.

“And, if you’re part of the management structure, empower people to make those improvements and let them get on with it and the system will back you.”

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President of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Andrew Goddard, said that while the RCP has always been behind the idea of using tech to improve healthcare services for patients and the environment, “the government and the NHS must make sure that they bring everyone with them on this journey.”

Goddard added: “In a recent survey, 50% of our members told us that they didn’t have access to a webcam.”

Unavoidable modernisation

Reacting to the health secretary’s speech, Flann Horgan, vice-president, healthcare at NTT Data UK, commented: “Today’s speech from the Health Secretary is a welcome acknowledgement of an inescapable reality: the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the NHS to modernise at a scale and pace previously thought impossible.

“IT has played a key role in supporting healthcare professionals throughout this crisis. Vital solutions have been rolled out in a matter of days or weeks – when, previously, it would have taken years. This agile approach to the development and adoption of new technology has allowed the NHS to reimagine what is possible, from healthcare consultations via video calls, to supporting X-ray diagnostics with machine learning algorithms.

“Even before Covid-19, the NHS was facing rising demand. Technology offers the opportunity to manage the patient journey more efficiently, reducing the burden on NHS resources, and with better outcomes for patients and healthcare professionals alike.

“The days when the NHS was slow to embrace new technology need to be left in the pre-pandemic world. Innovation has to become the order of the day.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

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