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£487m government pledge to fund updated NHS tech

Image credit: dt

The government will provide nearly half a billion pounds to modernise aspects of the NHS according to the new Health and Social Care Secretary.

Matt Hancock, who took on the role earlier this month following a cabinet reshuffle, is to announce a £487m package in his first speech following the appointment.

The pledge follows comments made by Hancock last week where he vowed to use technology to improve patient care in the NHS. 

Around £412m from the funds will be made available to transform technology in hospitals, to improve care and give more patients access to health services at home.

A further £75m will be available for trusts to replace paper systems with electronic ones, in a bid to reduce medication errors.

The funds follow the announcement of an NHS app by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt which will allow NHS users to access their medical records and book doctors’ appointments from their smartphones.

Hancock said he hopes the funding package will make the NHS “the most advanced health system in the world”.

He will vow to drive culture change within the NHS and social care sector, working with staff to embrace the latest technology, to improve their workload and patient care.

Addressing staff at West Suffolk Hospital on Friday, Hancock will list technology, the workforce and prevention as his early top priorities.

“From today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming,” he is expected to say.

“The opportunities of new technology, done right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”

Setting out his vision for the NHS, the former Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will say: “In all my experience, the small part is finding or inventing the technology.

“The big part is embedding a culture of always looking for the best possible technology and embracing it. I want to drive that culture change.

“And I want to work with everyone across the NHS and social care system to embrace the next generation of technology.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to boost funding by around £20bn a year in real terms by 2024, in the year the health service marks its 70th anniversary.

Hancock will say it is important to “make the most” of the extra cash by keeping people out of hospital.

He will add: “We must take a holistic approach to prevention.

“To reduce over prescription of unsophisticated drugs in favour of approaches like social prescribing, which address someone’s physical and mental well-being.

“To make the investment in primary care and community pharmacies so people don’t need to go to hospital.

“To empower people to keep themselves more healthy at home.”

Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The 4.3 million patients on waiting lists and the nearly 27,000 patients who waited over 62 days for cancer treatment last year will feel sorely let down that reducing waiting lists and stamping out rationing isn’t the first priority of the new Health Secretary.

“Investment in technology is welcome but years of Tory austerity has seen hospitals build up a £5bn repair backlog, resulting in clinicians nationwide using hundreds of pieces of equipment that are years out of date, as recently revealed by Labour.

“And commitments to prevention will ring hollow without reversing the substantial cuts to public health budgets, which are set to reach £800m by 2020/21.”

Pat Finlayson, senior product manager at communication company Polycom said: “After the news earlier in the year that NHS England suffered the worst waiting times on record, it was clear that digital transformation was urgently needed.

“We’ve seen time and time again that investment in the right technology can be transformative for healthcare providers and patients, saving lives, driving efficiencies and supporting medical professionals.

“By using telemedicine, Evelina London Children’s Hospital improved the productivity of children’s cardiology staff by 90 per cent and saved 1,300 hours per year in clinical time. The NHS Unified English Hospitals used video collaboration technology to save the lives of stroke victims who might have otherwise had to wait hours for urgent care.

“Hancock has also recognised the importance of giving people more access to health services at home, which will undoubtedly help the NHS to advance.

“Technologies such as telemedicine enable healthcare providers to massively scale up the number of patients treated every day, while making it easier for people living remotely to access the care they need. This is vital at a time when both staff shortages and waiting lists are growing.”

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