Labour’s NHS plan promises ‘tech entrepreneurs and AI in every hospital’

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has unveiled proposals to digitise the ‘red book’ children’s health record, as part of wider technological reforms of the NHS a Labour government would undertake

The Labour party has unveiled a vision for digitally led NHS reform, powered by “tech entrepreneurs” and “artificial intelligence technology in every hospital”.

Also included in the proposals, announced this week by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting and party leader Keir Starmer, is a plan to digitise the ‘red book’ – a child’s health record given to parents after a baby is born. The book is used to record a child’s weight and height, as well as details of vaccinations and other medical records. Parents can also use the book to record milestones in their child’s development, as well as details of accidents, illnesses, and medications taken.

Under Labour’s plans, all of this will be recorded in a digital version of the red book that will be incorporated into the NHS app. The technology could also notify parents about vaccinations and other updates, according to Streeting.

He said that this “will mean more children protected against measles… [as] the NHS will be able to notify every parent of an unprotected child, give them accurate information about the MMR vaccine, and invite their child to get vaccinated”.

In a piece written for The Sun accompanying the announcement of the digitisation plans, the shadow health secretary said that the “the NHS… [is] a 20th-century service that hasn’t changed with the times and isn’t fit for the modern era”.

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A Labour government would undertake a “a decade of change and ­modernisation to make the NHS fit for the future”. This reform – backed by an additional £1.b1bn – would include greater use of technology throughout the health service.

“If we marry Britain’s greatest scientific minds and tech entrepreneurs with the NHS, this country will go to the front of the queue for the revolution in medical treatments coming over the horizon,” Streeting wrote.

He added: “Hours of doctors’ and nurses’ time is wasted by outdated equipment. Labour will bring our ­analogue service into the digital age. As a first step, we will put artificial intelligence technology in every hospital, and make proper use of the NHS app to give patients real choice and control.”

Also featured in Streeting’s plans for the health service under a Labour administration is a proposal to “use spare capacity in the private sector to cut the waiting lists”.

“Middle-class lefties cry ‘betrayal’,” he said. “The real betrayal is the two-tier system that sees people like them treated faster — while working ­families like mine are left waiting for longer.”

The shadow health secretary added: “With Labour, investment will always be linked to reform. Pouring more money in without reform would be like pouring water into a leaky bucket.”

Sam Trendall

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