The funding will enable doctors and nurses to access scan and test results remotely, instead of having to wait for them
“Getting a faster diagnosis for a health condition is the first step to getting more people the treatment they need and earlier on, and our funding will help ensure our NHS has access to the latest digital technology to drive up efficiency.” Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary
The government is to spend £248m on digitising diagnostics care in the NHS, with the aim of reducing the time it takes to diagnose a condition.
Digitisation of diagnostic services means that hospital labs will be able to share patient results, tests and scans with clinicians, wherever they are. A GP practice or hospital doctor will have remote access to the results of a blood test or MRI, for example, so that they can see the results quickly and easily wherever they are. Similarly, a radiologist who needs to access an MRI scan will be able to do that off-site, rather than needing to be in an imaging lab.
Some of the new funding will also go towards a new tool that will enable GPs and other clinicians to choose the most suitable scan for their patient, based on the patient’s symptoms and medical history. This will cut the number of inappropriate requests made to radiology departments, saving radiologists’ time and ensuring patients get the right scans at the right time – a particularly significant improvement given the current shortage of NHS radiologists.
From a patient’s point of view, faster access to diagnostic results will mean they will be able to start treatment sooner.
The investment follows a recommendation from Professor Sir Mike Richards’ independent review of NHS diagnostics capacity that the NHS should prioritise digitisation as a way of improving efficiency and delivering seamless care.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said:
“Today’s multi-million pound investment will play a big role in levelling up diagnostics services across the country so patients can get faster results and healthcare professionals can get their job done more easily, reducing unnecessary administrative burden and making every taxpayer’s pound count.
“Getting a faster diagnosis for a health condition is the first step to getting more people the treatment they need and earlier on, and our funding will help ensure our NHS has access to the latest digital technology to drive up efficiency.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said that digitisation would improve efficiency in the NHS at a time when it faces multiple challenges: “The NHS is facing a winter like no other with rising cases of COVID and flu as well as record demand for emergency services, all while we continue to deliver the biggest vaccination programme in health service history, including rolling out booster jabs for the most vulnerable.
“However, NHS staff are making efficient use of additional funding and following the recent rollout of new diagnostic centres, the number of patients waiting for a diagnostic test is falling for the first time in a year, meaning more people are getting the checks they need and if required, are able to begin treatment sooner.”
More than 1.5 billion diagnostic tests are carried out in England every year and are crucial, the government said, to providing early diagnosis, screening and monitoring of long-term conditions.