Twenty First Century Healthcare with IT
There was a good turnout of clinicians at the planning session with an NHS client the other evening. Main strategic work streams were quickly agreed, and we got onto enablers. I expected the usual suspects: more consultants, more nurses and more money. I was wrong. Almost all of the groups chose IT as a major enabler of change for the better.
The NHS must save £20bn in the next 4 years or so. It has well worn approaches to economising—top slice budgets, freeze recruitment, cut some services. Mergers and takeovers and consolidations are also looming. That lot may keep us on target for a couple of years…and then what?
Now the traditional fixer for the NHS is money. Yet, despite unprecedented increases in funding in recent years, the National Audit Office says efficiency has fallen steadily. Most of the increased funding has gone on increased salaries and increased staff, but that hasn’t led to comparable increases in procedures and appointments. That means even if more funds were available, the NHS would still not meet increased demand.
I hope this will lead it to the conclusion that options around status quo are exhausted. In its present form, the NHS has gone as far as it can. The only way to create an affordable, efficient service that meets customer expectations—in other words a 21st century service—is complete redesign based on the effective use of IT.
I hope the participants at that planning session realise that. After all, adding 21st century digital parts to a 20th century mechanism will not do it. What is needed is a complete rethink. Part of me thinks the time is right for just that, and part of me thinks the powerful interests in and around the NHS will make it impossible.