NHS Long Term Plan: Who Will Carry The Voice Of The Patient?

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With the 70th anniversary of the NHS just passing and the new long term plan that has just been launched, we now have a good view of how the NHS will look like while celebrating its 80th birthday – should its plans come to fruition.

Of course one of the main controversies that arose after the publishing of the long term plan is that of the NHS staff shortage. How can the NHS deliver on its ambitious plans with  a shortage of staff? And how will Brexit impact NHS staff shortage in the long run seeing that 5% of the NHS staff are EU citizens?

Amongst many objectives, the NHS plans to improve its remote services (ie outside hospitals) and its community ones. We at Ampersand have been big believers in digital as a powerful tool to enhance the out-of-hospital care experience.  

Here is a brief summary of some of the interesting 10-year objectives set out under digital enablement:

  • Digital will become “mainstream”
  • A digital-first option will be presented for primary care
  • Digital will help optimise outpatient care
  • Patients will have more control of their health
  • Clinicians will confidently lean more and more on digital services and tech advancements

We’re relieved to see a whole chapter dedicated to digital enablement. If the plan is delivered as presented, many lives will be improved and many health-risks prevented.

Digital therapy has already been integrated into many care pathways and continued adoption of patient-focused technologies are envisaged. NHS commissioners and managers will have to look into adopting new technologies as part of their innovation agendas and clinical teams will have to feel more and more comfortable and confident with the idea of using technology as part of their care pathways.

Of course the innovation itself has to prove itself effective and able to withstand scientific scrutiny. But if it all comes together, we envisage a rapid shift away from traditional models of care into more collaborative ones where patients are empowered to take greater responsibility of their care.

Preparing for this scenario requires the NHS and the ecosystem around it to be aware of, and designed for the real world behaviours. We see the voice of the patient as being of great importance in the preparatory phase. But how will it be brought together in a thoughtful and integrated way? What is the role of the private sector, of patient groups, of charities; to say nothing of politicians and the the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the NHS itself?

We believe that the initiatives presented in the Long Term Plan are laudable. The vision of the NHS at its 80th birthday is one we can be proud of as a society. But we need a sensible conversation around the administration of innovation in the coming period to encourage the best and the brightest in the broader ecosystem to work together for the best outcomes.

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