Hancock vows to ‘double down on huge advances’ made in NHS use of tech during coronavirus crisis

Health secretary says recent events have shown both patients and medical staff ‘want to use technology’

Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Health secretary Matt Hancock has pledged that the government will “double down” on ensuring that the “huge advances” recently made by the NHS in its use of technology will continue beyond the current crisis.

In a written message to NHS workers, Hancock thanked them for their efforts in recent months. He then stressed the importance of studying and learning “both from what we must change and what went well” during the health service’s coronavirus response.

“I want to make sure we have a conversation about this throughout the NHS,” he said.

As a prompt for such a conversation, the health secretary set out the “seven major cultural lessons” of the pandemic that he identified in a speech given last month at the Royal College of Physicians.

The first of these of is to ensure that staff from entry level and upwards are valued and their judgement trusted, and the second is the need to “scythe away bureaucracy that is disempowering” to workers.

The third lesson Hancock claimed to have taken from recent months is that “better tech means better healthcare”. 

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During his speech last month, he said that, in the four-week period to 12 April, 71% of GP consultations were conducted remotely, and just 26% face to face. This was a near exact inverse of the figures for the corresponding period of 2019, he claimed.

In his missive to NHS staff this week, Hancock said that such technological progress must continue well beyond the current crisis. 

“We have seen how patients and clinicians alike, not just young people, want to use technology, so we must double down on the huge advances we’ve made,” he said. “Not only will it make life quicker and easier for patients, but it will free up clinicians to concentrate on what really matters.”Government scraps £12m contact-tracing app after finding it does not work on iPhonesThe fourth lesson picked out by the health secretary is the importance of the NHS “looking outwards” and working collaboratively with commercial providers and the rest of the public sector. 

The fifth is the “need to break down the silos that exist between providers and trusts of all kinds” and the sixth is to improve collaboration between national healthcare organisations. The final lesson is the need to improve public health through better prevention measures and efforts to “tackle health inequalities”.

Hancock urged NHS workers to take part in the government’s ongoing public consultation on “reducing bureaucracy in the health and social care system”.

“This is only the start of the conversation, and I want to hear what you think too; what works and what matters to you,” he said. “Our bureaucracy challenge… will look at every new proposed regulation or process and ask if it makes sense given the realities of modern, integrated healthcare.”


Sam Trendall

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