Top Doctors Urge The NHS To Embrace Technology

by Eithne Dodd

The NHS must keep pace with technological change and the expectations of the public, according to leading doctors.

Speaking at Nesta Health Lab’s Innovation in the Future of Emergency Care event, Professor Keith Willett said: “Epic change is going on, and we’re behind the curve.”

Willett, who is the Medical Director of Acute Care to NHS England, told the audience that the population had moved on and the NHS needed to catch up: “We have a ‘right now’ society. People expect to get things immediately even if they are not urgent,” Willett said.

The fundamental principle driving this change, according to Willett, is that the NHS needs to broaden out into the community. Although previously a hospital-based system, Willett said the NHS needs to deliver care that is personalised and closer to the patient.

Willett’s sentiments were echoed by Dr  Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer to NHS England: “We’ve got a tremendous job trying to help people use digital tools that they are happy to use in almost all other areas of their lives, but are relatively difficult to implement in a health care environment”.

One of the projects that Eccles would like to see happen is for ambulances to be given patient information.

“We need to get to a world where a crew on their way to treat someone is hearing appropriate details about them, and can then send everything they need to the receiving hospital in advance of the patient arriving,”  Eccles said. “We are a very long way off that at the moment.”

However, technological change is coming to the NHS. Willet cited the 111 helpline and the ambulance service as examples where the NHS has responded to new and improved technologies.

“We’ve gone from 4 million to 16 million [111 users] over a matter of a few years,” said Willett. “More than 50 per cent of patients get put through to the services that they need, they don’t just get signposted.

“It might not be the best thing in the world, but it is certainly doing what the public right now wants,” said Willett.

Featured Image by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

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