Thursday, 24 January, 2019

NHS long-term plan unveils tech-savvy future for service

NHS 10-year plan launched in bid to save 500000 lives NHS looks to digital and genomics to secure its future
Celia Hoffman | 08 January, 2019, 03:25

We all have an emotional connection to it, our own family story, and we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the people who make the NHS what it is, and work so hard, especially during the winter months when the pressures are greatest.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: "The NHS long term plan, backed by a historic commitment of an extra £20.5billion a year from taxpayers, marks an important moment not just for the health service but for the lives of millions of patients and hardworking NHS staff across the country".

One target that has been shifted is that secondary care providers in England will be digitised by 2024 - a year later than had been mooted previously, and much later than one former dream of a paperless NHS by 2018.

The government said it would redesign services over the next five years to remove the need for 30 million outpatient visits each year, which it said would avoid the associated £1.1bn bill.

Despite record demand, performance was better this December than last.

Responding to this news, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, has warned that the NHS must look beyond its grand ambitions and ensure it addresses the harsh realities of healthcare today.

Better prevention and detection of diseases, with a particular focus on cancer.

If enacted, these changes would "remove the counterproductive effect that general competition rules and powers can have on the integration of NHS care", the document adds.

That means patients will have improved access to their Global Positioning System and greater flexibility about how they contact them.

There is also concern that the plan can only provide a partial answer to the challenges facing the NHS until the government sets out its social care strategy.

The report - which is long on buzzwords and short on substance - also referenced the use of artificial intelligence to aid decision-support, the use of predictive tools to support the development of local health services, and linking genomic "and other data" to support the development of new treatments.

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Mr Speaker, ultimately staff are the heart of the NHS - the people who work in the NHS. "NHS England and the Government must urgently address these chronic shortages to make the plan the success it deserves to be". A broad spectrum of digital services will support individuals to take a much more proactive and responsible approach to monitoring their own health and well-being, enabling them to recognise their individual health risks and symptoms as early as possible, and manage their personal response to these risks.

Pledges in the plan include ensuring every hospital with a major A&E department has "same day emergency care" in place so that patients can be treated and discharged with the right package of support, without needing an overnight stay.

"Psychologists are a key part of delivering this plan".

It's worth noting that in total, community health services, mental health and primary care costs the NHS around £27bn a year, so the allocation for mental health is just less than 10%.

- Patients will be able to access health care at the touch of the button through a "digital front door" to the NHS.

It is part of the aim to make digital services a mainstream part of the health service. "In addition, better care and support for people living with heart failure will significantly improve quality of life for many".

Mental health will receive £2.3bn, which will see community-based services, such as those in schools, expanded to help 345,000 more children and young people with mental health conditions.

The NHS will tackle unacceptable health inequalities by targeting support towards the most vulnerable in areas of high deprivation.

"In aiming for parity between physical and mental health services these plans demonstrate a clear commitment to mental health through increased spending and introducing access standards".

As part of attempts to improve prevention and integration of services, for the first time the new money will see the budget for primary care - GPs, opticians, dentists and pharmacists - grow faster than the overall NHS budget.

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