Speaking on The Future of NHS Tech – Covid-19 and Beyond webinar, organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Matt Hancock told more than 200 virtual attendees how there has been positive change in all three areas since the start of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said it will be “critical” for the NHS to work with the private sector to continue an uptake in use of technology such as telemedicine after the COVID-19 outbreak has subsided. The shift towards digital technology has led to closer working with private sector partners, data-led decision making and telemedicine, according to Hancock.
Hancock said: “Entrenching this better culture, both among patients and clinicians in the system, is mission critical, as well as entrenching data in decision-making, and entrenching the open enthusiasm for using the private sector to solve problems.”
“We’ve seen the uptake of the use of technology like never before… I’d say the three big areas where there’s been an improvement is telemedicine, data in decision-making, and the teamwork between different institutions,” he said. “We need to entrench these improvements.”
His comments were backed by Tara Donnelly, chief digital officer at health innovation unit NHSX, who said that the “old row” about what is delivered by private and public sector providers has “abated enormously”. NHSX is an agency set up by Hancock that aims to encourage use of digital technology across the NHS, in a bid to improve quality of services and increase efficiency.
The agency says the NHS is already working with companies such as Virgin Media, Lenovo, and Plusnet as part of its drive to encourage uptake of technological solutions. During the webinar, Alexander de Carvalho, co-founder and chief investment officer of government technology Public, said there had been “incredible improvements in procurement processes” during the COVID-19 response. This has allowed buyers and suppliers to become far more ambitious, adding that investors have turned to government-backed projects because they are seen as a safe source of revenue. Venture capitalists, large institutional funds, and pension funds are on board in the absence of investment from the private sector, he said. Carvalho said: “There have been a lot of businesses that have turned into zero-revenue businesses in the past three to four months, and what was seen as a stable sleepy area has suddenly become quite interesting.”
Both Hancock and Donnelly specifically praised the private sector’s close collaboration with the NHS during the pandemic, with the former noting: “The old row about what’s delivered through the public sector and what’s delivered through the private sector has abated enormously. “What really matters when there’s a proper crisis is how can you deliver the mission on which you are engaged, whether that’s treating Covid or stopping the spread of the epidemic – it matters far less the badge of the person who’s doing the job,” he said. “It’s been a very big moment for team working between people of all sorts of different institutions and organisations, because that’s what the crisis has demanded, and ultimately that’s what technology demands, because technology doesn’t recognise silos. “Entrenching this better culture, both among patients and clinicians in the system, is mission critical, as well as entrenching data in decision-making, and entrenching the open enthusiasm for using the private sector to solve problems,” he added.