Hunt 'fundamentally optimistic' about future of NHS

Published on Tuesday, 04 March 2014 18:08
Written by Daniel Mason

The NHS has "barely scratched the surface" of the technological revolution that will personalise health services and improve the quality of care, Jeremy Hunt has said.

In a speech at the close of a conference in Manchester today, the health secretary said he was "fundamentally optimistic" about the future of the NHS - and cited the use of new technologies as one of the key factors behind that optimism.

While admitting that little had changed in the health service compared with other industries, such as online banking and shopping, he insisted that would no longer be the case. "We are on the cusp of one of the most exciting changes in the delivery of healthcare in our lifetimes," he said.

Hunt, who said the NHS had "barely scratched the surface of the technological revolution", listed a series of areas where new innovations would be implemented to the benefit of patients over the next two years.

He said that by the time of the general election in spring 2015, 95% of patients would be able to use the internet to access their medical records, make appointments and order repeat prescriptions, and there would also be a move towards email-based consultations with GPs.

Patients would increasingly use mobile phone apps to manage their own chronic conditions, for example diabetes, or try to prevent contracting a chronic condition, he said. And he argued that the use of data - such as in the government's map showing the regional variations in the quality of dementia services across the country - would drive up quality.

He added that he wanted the UK to be the first nation to map 100,000 whole genomes, which would be a "treasure trove" of information about medical conditions and diseases.

"What is there not to be optimistic about?" Hunt asked, at the annual Health and Care Innovation Expo. "Taking it forward we need to show humility - we've had plenty of IT catastrophes in the NHS. We need to show patience because it is not all going to happen at once.

"But we need to have confidence because this is something that can be totally transformative for our NHS." However, while technology was the focus of his speech, Hunt added two other reasons for his optimism.

He said he was "incredibly proud" of the way the service had dealt with the "incredible shock" of the scandal at Mid Staffordshire. And he claimed the NHS was starting to "understand the challenge of financial sustainability", which was a "big change from five or 10 years ago".

Add comment