The NHS is to receive a new half a billion pound package to help increase the amount of digital technologies that are available across services within the organisation.
Speaking at the West Suffolk hospital on Friday (20 July), secretary for health and social care Matt Hancock outlined his plans for the NHS, emphasising the importance of ‘technology-driven health and care’.
Hancock announced a total of £475 million worth of funding which will go towards new technology designed for hospitals.
“More than £400 million will go towards new technology in hospitals which make patients safer, make every pound go further and help more people access health services at home,” Hancock said. “It will be another major step along the road to full provider digitisation.
“A further £75 million is available to Trusts to help them put in place state-of-the-art electronic systems which save money, give clinicians more time to spend on patients and reduce potentially deadly medication errors by up to 50% when compared to the old paper systems.”
Hancock referenced a number of initiatives that are taking place across NHS organisations such as the use an electronic planning system at the Bridgeside Lodge social care home, blood coagulation machines and Scan4Safety barcode tracking. These technologies have helped link homes with GPs and local hospital to develop preventative pathways, offer better clinical data and safely track patients, their treatments and the effectiveness of equipment respectively.
Discussing the work that is being done at West Suffolk, Hancock said that, “junior doctors and nurses will soon throw away their pagers and install a new smartphone app, removing the need to phone colleagues for details after getting paged – something that a pilot has shown should save nurses more than 20 minutes and doctors almost 50 minutes every shift.”
Deciding to acknowledge the pressures the NHS has been under, Hancock agreed that ‘since 2010 budgets have been tight’ but also stated that real terms spend on the NHS has increased in ‘each and every year’.
Whilst the extra funding comes as a nice surprise, Hancock mentioned that it is ‘just the start’ and the recently announced £20 billion for the NHS “will be contingent on modern technological transformation”. However, the additional funding won’t be enough if the proper standards for cultural change aren’t adopted.
“We will put in place the data standards, and support the workforce to adopt change too. Some of this is about inventing new technology but in lots of places it is about adoption because we know there are places where this technology is working,” Hancock said.
“In my experience the small part is finding or inventing the technology. The big part is embedding a culture of always looking for the best possible technology and embracing it. I want to drive that culture change.
Commenting the recent announcement, Noel O’Hanlon, CEO of Genesis Automation, which has been involved in the Scan4Safety hospital pilots, said: “ It’s great to hear that the Department of Health is convinced of the significant cost savings and advances in patient safety that the Scan4Safety initiative have shown so far.
“When it was introduced, Scan4Safety was expected to deliver savings of £800 million over seven years. A year after this workstream began, that estimation increased to £1 billion and the true savings could be even higher.
“Not only that, but the ability to track, trace and record critical supplies like surgical implants greatly reduces the risk of errors and improves the possibilities for product recall in an emergency. It also makes it possible to measure the cost of individual procedures, opening the door for true patient-level costing. We hope that the real benefits of this technology, that we helped to introduce to the NHS, can now be adopted by Trusts and patients across the country.”