Health secretary vows technology is key to improving NHS patient care
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Technology will be used to improve patient care in the NHS, according to Matt Hancock, the newly appointed health and social care secretary.
Hancock was recently appointed to the role after only six months as the digital, culture, media and sport secretary, following the resignation of David Davis as Brexit secretary and the subsequent cabinet reshuffle.
He said he had seen first-hand how artificial intelligence can help spot cancer early and how apps can be used to monitor patients and alert GPs to problems.
Indeed, an international team of researchers demonstrated in May that trained AI could detect the most lethal form of skin cancer, melanoma, with 95 per cent accuracy in comparison to dermatologists who only managed 90 per cent accuracy at best.
His comments come just weeks after former health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the launch of a new NHS app that will allow patients to book doctors’ appointments and check their medical records.
Hancock said he is “determined to seize the opportunities of the modern age”, to make the health service more cost-efficient and help ease staff workload.
The former culture secretary declared his unwavering support for the NHS and described taking on the new role as a “deep privilege”.
Writing in the Health Service Journal (HSJ), he said: “While I am very much driven by the 70-year-old founding principles of the NHS, delivering this mission also means I am determined to seize the opportunities of the modern age we live in.
“Technology has a proven ability to radically change the world for the better, be it in finance, in education and in transport.
“Nowhere does technology have greater potential to improve lives than in healthcare.”
Hancock said he had learnt from experience that digital transformation in the public sector “doesn’t always go to plan”.
“Using the best of modern technology must be done in a way that improves care, makes money go further and makes life easier for staff,” he said.
“I am determined that these decisions will not boil down to a zero-sum game between the demands placed on staff and the outcomes for patients. We will only get the improved NHS outcomes we seek when we release the full potential of the people who work in it.”
While the NHS is “one of our country’s greatest achievements”, Hancock said it is “abundantly clear” that staff feel undervalued.
Pledging his support for the workforce, he said: “I love the NHS and I will always believe in it.
“As Health and Social Care Secretary, I promise I will listen and learn and work with you and will do everything I can to defend you and champion all the hard-working staff who make our NHS what it is today.”
In May, the government funded a trial of a new app which allows NHS workers to book themselves onto empty shifts to earn additional pay and reduce reliance on “expensive agency staff”.