Better use of tech could save NHS £10bn a year

A new report by the IPPR think tank has claimed that the coronavirus outbreak has created the conditions for a ‘mission based approach’ to the spread of innovation in England.

The Innovation Lottery report highlights the case of digital consultations in primary care. While in March to April 2019, 71 per cent of GP consultations in England were face to face; the most recent Royal College of GPs data shows that 71 per cent were remote at the same point this year.

IPPR argues that the current pandemic has created the conditions for a ‘mission based approach’ to the spread of innovation in England, which has to done by establishing a clear common purpose; forcing national leaders to put forward clear frameworks, guidance and funding; and pushing government to empower local practitioners.

It is a sharp change from the risk-averse, bureaucratic and tick-boxing environment the researchers identified before the crisis began. The think tank says that it is crucial we do not allow that orthodoxy to return after the coronavirus outbreak ends.

Innovations in the healthcare system could help address the long-term impacts of the virus. In the working age population alone, it could help avoid 20,000 deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke or dementia.

Furthermore, IPPR says that spread of innovation will also boost to our economic recovery, somewhere in the region of £18 billion per year. This would come from more people staying in work longer (£8.3 billion), as well as a stronger life science industry (£9.6 billion). Meeting international standards for the spread of innovation could also save the UK’s healthcare services an estimated £10 billion per year.

Chris Thomas, lead author of the report, said: “Covid-19 has been a catastrophe – for our collective health, wealth and society. And while the NHS in England was not overrun, we paid a dear price for that in the form of cancelled treatments, delayed cancer diagnoses and avoidable excess mortality. The UK government must urgently get us back on track.

“Making sure everyone can get the best care, regardless of their postcode, will require a new approach. The old ways of box ticking, cost control and efficiency savings must end. In its place, a new approach must champion transformation, and actively empower healthcare workers to deliver that change. Our research shows that transforming the NHS’ offer across England will be key. It would provide huge economic gains. It would provide cost savings for the health service. Most importantly, it would provide better care for patients and service users, at a time of record need and demand.”

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