Health secretary Sajid Javid has given more details of his plans for NHS reform, including a greater emphasis on personalised health care, prevention and improved performance, much of will be underpinned by digital technology. Fortunately, the NHS’s move to digitisation continues apace, with one English foundation trust introducing software to triage outpatients, reducing waiting times, and a Scottish health board successfully piloting AI technology to speed up diagnosis of cervical cancer.
The health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that reform of the NHS will be based on four priorities: prevention, personalisation, performance and people. In a speech on Tuesday to the Royal College of Physicians, he said that the principal challenges facing the NHS were changing demographics, raised expectations and financial sustainability.
The focus on prevention would include a new approach to vaccination, using the lessons learnt from the pandemic to “deliver a sustainable vaccination service that doesn’t displace other health and care services.” Demonstrating his commitment to personalised health care, he set a target that four million people would benefit from personalised care by March 2024, covering “everything from social prescribing to support plans.”
The plan to improve performance would be underpinned by digital transformation, including the previously-announced move to electronic patient records throughout the NHS. “These are modernisations we cannot afford to live without,” he said. He also said that artificial intelligence had the power to “improve the day-to-day patient experience, free up more time for GPs, nurses and others to focus on patient care and reduce costs.”
The number of patients with Covid-19 in critical care in Wales has dropped to a daily average of nine, the lowest total since mid-July.
On Monday, eight of those patients were in Cardiff, while the ninth was in the Hywel Dda health board area and was being treated primarily for something else.
According to figures published by Digital Health and Care Wales, nearly 80% of patients with positive tests for Covid in acute beds are in hospital primarily for treatment for another condition.
Last week the Welsh government announced that it would scrap its remaining Covid restrictions from 28 March – the last part of the UK to do so.
A hospital in Scotland, University Hospital Monklands, has become the first in the UK to pilot artificial intelligence (AI) software to improve early diagnosis of cervical cancer.
The pilot uses Hologic’s Genius Digital Diagnostics System, which creates digital images of cervical smear slides from samples that have tested positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). An AI algorithm reviews the slides and provides the screeners with an image gallery of the most diagnostically relevant cells, enabling them to identify and diagnose abnormalities more quickly and accurately.
So far the software has helped the hospital to improve its capacity by around 25% in slide assessment and improved analysis turnaround times.
Local NHS leaders have been told to draw up plans to level-up and converge the electronic patient records (EPRs) in use across Integrated Care System (ICS) boundaries.
The requirement is included in a letter from NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) sent to providers in February. The guidance states that EPRs are “essential “to support the recovery and sustainability of the NHS and care”.
The letter, sent by Tim Ferris, director of digital transformation at NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI), David Sloman, COO at NHSEI and Sonia Patel, system CIO, NHSEI, states that the primary focus is to “achieve universal EPR coverage across all ICSs.” It adds: “We are also encouraging ICSs to work towards the managed convergence of EPRs over time, to reduce the number of EPRs across acute care, community services, mental health, ambulance services, primary care, and social care.”
The aim of the convergence, it says, is to “provide critical, real-time access to all health-related information for caregivers. It will also enable more simplified access for patients to their own data.”
Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust is implementing a patient management system from eConsult to reduce the waiting list backlog.
The software will act as a triage system at the referral stage, asking patients referred to the hospital’s outpatient clinics a specialist list of questions. The aim is to reduce the number of patients who need to attend the clinic, removing unnecessary appointments and freeing up doctors’ time.
Patients will also have more control over their appointments as they will be able to send in information ahead of a visit and pre-book tests and appointments with relevant specialists before attending a clinic.