Is technology the answer to our failing NHS?

It’s a well known fact that the NHS is facing severe financial pressures. Cuts are being made, but still NHS trusts around the country are spending more than their budget. With such a lack of funds, coupled with a rising population and an increasingly elderly population many fear for the future of the NHS. With all this in mind we must find a way to innovate and make the most of what money is available. Simply throwing money at healthcare surely isn’t the answer. For instance, America spent 16.6% of their GDP on healthcare compared to Britain’s 9.9% in 2014 (Office of National Statistics) and shows few signs of being a better service.


So, where can the NHS innovate? A lot of people have been talking about using more technology within the NHS. There are already some examples in place, such as Babylon Health, which is a digital healthcare app. The app uses an Artificial Intelligence chatbot to Triage patients as an alternative to the NHS’s 111-telephone helpline. This chatbot can avoid unnecessary hospital appointments/ trips to A+E, and will ultimately save the NHS money. The app can also set up video and text consultations with doctors and specialists. Using this technology also has the added benefit of not having to miss work or events in order to go to a GP’s office.


Another prime example of how the NHS can use technology to become more efficient comes from Airedale, Yorkshire. Secure video links have been set up in patients homes, care homes and prisons that allow direct contact with Doctors and Nurses in and out of normal working hours, which can manage a range of injuries and queries relating to general health. This service has reportedly reduced admissions to hospital from one care home by more than a third and A&E attendances are down by over 50%. A further roll out of this service could contribute towards significant savings and free up a lot of beds in NHS hospitals.


Another point to think about is how much money the NHS spends on training staff each year. E-learning and virtual reality companies are starting to emerge as a way of offering more staff improved learning and opportunities for CPD. One example is a company called, Touchsurgery. They offer a free mobile app that teaches students over 100 surgical procedures over 14 different specialities all for free. The NHS needs to use more of these services and training providers to improve the quality of teaching and give staff more exposure to different specialities. Possibly, this kind of teaching could deliver more value for money to the NHS.


As you can see, the NHS has started to implement some technology within their organisation, which has largely been a success. But we must continue to strive to make more savings and deliver more value for money, which I believe can be achieved through using more technology within the service. It’s an exciting time and we must embrace the technology as it starts to come in to service. There are still many advancements that can be made in patient management, personal monitoring devices and training to name a few. I look forward to seeing how the NHS will evolve in the next 10 to 20 years. 

Stephen Marshall


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