The NHS has long been the jewel in the crown of Britain’s public sector – a leading healthcare service, free at the point of entry, which is envied by countries around the world. However, even a cursory glance at the news in recent weeks will have revealed that all is not well with the National Health Service.
Becoming something of a perennial event, this January the Winter Crisis reared its ugly head once again; as we proceed through February it is showing little sign of relenting. The colder months typically result in increased demand within hospitals and, particularly, A&E departments. Unfortunately, under the weight of such demand, the NHS is struggling to find the resources to cope.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt conceded this month that the country was in the midst of the “worst ever” Winter Crisis, although official figures made that point quite clear by themselves. Data released on 8 February showed that A&E waiting time performance was at its worst level on record, with thousands of patients left for 12 hours or more on trolleys waiting for a bed.
It begs the question of what, beyond an unlikely U-turn in the Government’s public health funding policy, can be done to alleviate the strain on the NHS and ensure people across the UK have access to high-quality health and social care? High on the list of answers has to be the need to embrace new technologies.
HealthTech solutions are emerging at pace to help transform the health, care and wellbeing sectors. New apps, wearable tech, online platforms and medical tools are being created by innovative – and often early stage – businesses. In turn, both consumers and professionals now have an ever-increasing range of digital solutions available to them for improving their health.
One of the most significant areas that HealthTech is able to play an important role in easing the strain on the NHS is through preventative care. Prevention is better than cure, or so the saying goes; and by using affordable (or sometimes even free) tech to help individuals identify and improve upon problem areas when it comes to their physical health is the first step to keeping such people out of A&E wards. As such, advancing the means for people to spot and manage conditions within the home must be a key priority for both the UK’s public and private sectors.
Similarly, post clinical care options must also be improved. People discharged from hospital after short or long-term treatment have to be empowered to control and monitor their own health to ensure the same issues do not reappear. Thankfully, new online platforms exist that make it far easier for patients – or the loved ones caring for them – to source and schedule health and wellbeing services that will aid their recovery and prevent the need for further acute care.
There is, of course, no silver bullet to resolve the significant challenges facing the NHS. But it is undeniable that innovations within the HealthTech space have a big part to play. Raising awareness of these new technologies is the first step towards creating a health and wellbeing system built on personalised, convenient and out-of-hospital care. In turn, we can steadily relieve the weight of demand on the NHS, not just when winter arrives but 365 days of the year.
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