The future of health (and care) in the UK

Posted by: in Global Healthcare, Healthcare Insights, Insights, W2O Group on December 4, 2014


At the ‘Future of Health’ conference this week in London, UK National Health Service (NHS) senior leaders and senior politicians Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Andy Burnham Shadow Health Secretary, discussed what NHS reform could look like.

The conference, held by Reform, an independent non-party think-tank, gave healthcare industry executives the opportunity to hear about prospective plans from both Conservative & Labour health leaders ahead of the upcoming election in May 2015. Their plans were set against commentary from NHS and industry leaders.

Along with some not-so-subtle political bashing, there were three focuses for change which were consistent across political parties – deliver more value, patient-centricity, and integrated health AND care systems. In essence, the message was that the system has been focused on medical treatments but moving forward it needs to cover ‘whole person care’ from prevention, early intervention, social and primary care.

Discussion centred on these topics, and raised some interesting insights below.

While some of the biggest advances in technology were developed in the UK, the pace of adoption of these innovations within the NHS is too slow and varies greatly across hospitals. – Hunt

  • Joint ventures and partnerships are ways of achieving better value, by bringing in outside expertise in anything from care pathways to service or supply chain management, “if hospitals want to improve, they need to share risks and costs.” – Sir David Dalton, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

The NHS needs a radical shift to address prevention, early intervention, primary, social and health care all under one roof. This means both vertical integration of services and horizontal integration of hospitals and health organisations. – Burnham & Ian Dodge, NHS England.

  • The NHS must improve the capacity of people to self-manage health in order to improve value, “we need to tear up the old model of Dr-patient relationship.” – Hunt
  • The focus for this should be on the growth and adoption of wellness, prevention and earlier intervention systems, including the use of digital health tools.
    • In a pilot study, 60% of e-consultations resolved patients’ needs without a GP appointment.
    • Moreover, 18% of patients that used digital tools said they would have otherwise used emergency care, when in fact they did not need to. – Dr Arvind Madan, Hurley
    • For Hunt the reform includes pharmacists having access to patient data to better inform treatment decisions.
    • Burnham said that if Labour came into power, by 2025 the home, not the hospital, would be the default setting for care and there would always be one highly personalised team around the person, addressing all health and social care needs.

While there was difference in opinion on some points during the discussions, all of the speakers agreed that the NHS isn’t as bad as it is portrayed in the UK media! Highlighting that it has been voted the best healthcare system in the world by the Commonwealth Fund.

In light of the UK government Autumn Statement which announced an extra £2 billion needed for the NHS across 2015-2016, the reform plans were deemed logical and necessary across both the audience and those that presented. Whether these plans are realised and successfully executed will determine the future of health.

You can find more info and see Twitter coverage from the event here.

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