£4bn NHS tech move will unleash confidence in UK companies

3 years ago Blog Donald Kennedy

The UK’s small and medium sized technology companies can invest more in helping the NHS, meaning less reliance on global software giants, writes Donald Kennedy, Patientrack managing director

New confidence can be taken by healthcare technology and solutions companies across the UK, following the government’s latest announcements on NHS IT investment.

Promising £4.2bn for healthcare technology over the next five years, including £1.8bn to allow the NHS to become paperless, has serious implications for improving patient safety, ensuring patients get the timely compassionate care they deserve, and in providing healthcare professionals with the tools and the information they need to save more lives and meet the ambitions of the NHS for health and social care.

Confirming the financial support for technology means that the UK’s innovators can gear up to provide helpful answers to NHS challenges. This really does mean listening, not just selling IT to the NHS. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to work collaboratively and make the most of the UK’s national assets for the future of safe and efficient healthcare delivery to patients throughout the country.

Any technologist might argue that placing the right information into the hands of clinicians when they make decisions for and with their patients, should be an easy thing to do in 2016. But, whilst a good number of the UK’s healthcare organisations are racing ahead with digital advancements, many frontline NHS staff, even now, still face the frustrations of relying on pieces of paper to record and retrieve vital information on their patients.

Putting useful technology and useable information into the hands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, has the power to prevent patients coming to harm and deliver a safe and efficient service.

Commitments to technology investment to enable this means that the UK’s army of inventive small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), can more confidently than ever make the investments needed to deliver against NHS needs.

The healthcare technology industry in the UK should see this as a commitment from government and senior leadership – one which it can now respond to in a positive way and with the determination needed to help the NHS do good things for patients and for hard-pressed staff.

This is an opportunity to extend collaboration and partnership between the NHS and the UK’s SMEs, and to offer the NHS a real chance to work with companies that will pause and listen to the actual needs of healthcare organisations and staff, and how information needs to flow within and between health and social care teams.

It means that the NHS should no longer need to rely on the one size fits all approach of the world’s software giants, but that it has the opportunity to work with well-equipped and resourced UK companies that can help it deliver against the real and pressing local and national clinical priorities.

Other reviews too have stressed the importance of technology in helping the NHS deliver better and more affordable care. Recent work, such as Lord Carter’s report on ‘Productivity in NHS Hospitals’, references the drive to achieve the NHS paperless agenda by 2020.

Some of the technologies of real value to the frontline doctors and nurses of the NHS, are those which allow staff to identify their most unwell patients and do something about it as early as possible.  These are being delivered now by UK SMEs.  Recent findings from management consultancy firm McKinsey, for example, found that vital signs monitoring systems can alone save the NHS as much as £300m per year. Add to this local innovation with this technology by staff at pioneering trusts like Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, to tackle deadly conditions like sepsis and acute kidney injury, and the impact can be not only much higher, but much more crucial to people – allowing NHS professionals to prevent harm and save lives.

Ingenuity like this will no doubt be of interest to Professor Bob Wachter as he commences his review of where technology has worked well in the NHS.

Technology works well, where real collaboration takes place – something the UK’s SMEs are in a prime position to achieve with the NHS. The launch of DigitalHealth.London this week, a programme which aims to bring together clinicians with healthcare providers, entrepreneurs and industry to speed up the adoption of digital health technologies, is another opportunity to encourage these partnerships, an area that ministers like George Freeman are watching closely and with good reason.

Confidence in the UK’s innovation base, in the NHS and in the people across those sectors who are willing to work together for the good of patients, is most certainly a positive thing to have.