Technological Transformation Round Table with the New UK Secretary of State of Health and Social Care

by Jean Nehme, co-founder at Digital Surgery

This week I attended a roundtable meeting with the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. Arriving at the Department of Health, I saw a number familiar faces: Ali Parsa from Babylon Health, Hakim Yadi from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and Alan Karthikesalingam from Google DeepMind. The excitement and the anticipation in the room was palpable.

Matt arrived and introduced himself and his team before quickly moving onto the question at hand: how do we use technology to better deliver transformation in the NHS? This subject was all too familiar to the folks around the table.

“We need better interoperability frameworks, structure around data access, and an ability to support technology champions within Trusts”, expressed the attendees. The frustrations were all too familiar and it was clear that Matt saw the same challenges and was committed to help.

In recent years we have seen the creation of multiple technology accelerators, including the NHS Innovation Accelerator, DigitalHealth.London, the Clinical Entrepreneurship Programme, and many more local hubs. We have seen more interest from clinical staff in utilising technology to enable their day-to-day work. We’ve also seen the power of embedding formal support programmes to help realise simple solutions to reduce preventable errors and waste, and improve efficiency in wards, Trusts and the wider health service.

My suggestion to Matt and his team was that technology can be better utilised– as a clinician, I believe it is an important tool in our tool box. However, putting on my economic hat, given the finite resources of any health system, we have to align the needs and interests of multiple stakeholders — patients, NHS staff, administrators and economists — to create a unified evaluation framework to support better, faster, and more consistent decision-making. The challenges in healthcare today, and the foreseeable future, are very real, and they require genuine innovation and material investment to resolve them. Like Matt said today in his visit to West Suffolk hospital, when “done right”, the opportunities for improvement across health and social care are vast. Let’s work together to unleash our creative capacities.