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How to stop the NHS falling into a perpetual state of crisis

Rohit Patni, CEO and co-founder of WeMa Life, discusses why HealthTech has to be the answer.


This winter was a time of crisis for the NHS as it faced recruitment problems, a lack of available beds and increased demand across the country. The British Medical Association (BMA) is not alone in its belief that the unprecedented pressure faced by health services during winter 2017/18 isn’t likely to end; the Winter Crisis risks turning into a year-long state of emergency for the NHS.


In spite of the extra funding recently announced for the NHS, funding alone is not the answer as the rising cost of GPs, hospital staff and A&E departments means there is a danger that extra funding becomes a quick-fix and fails to provide a proper solution that addresses the structural problems in the NHS. A permanent solution to the NHS’s current crisis therefore requires tackling the root cause of increased demand on services. 


Handling rising demand


While the bad weather experienced this last winter has been portrayed in national newspapers as the cause of increased patient demand, this is only partly true. More fundamental to the long-term increase is the demographic shift of an aging population. 


With the King’s Fund predicting that the number of people in the UK aged over 65 will reach 10.8 million by 2032 – a 39% increase over 20 years – the NHS needs to restructure its processes and practices to effectively manage this challenge. Without doing so, services will struggle to keep up with the pressures that older generations more susceptible to illness will have on the NHS.


How HealthTech companies can revolutionise patient care


The sheer potential of technological innovation is not confined solely to the NHS; rather, HealthTech is ushering an all-encompassing transformation of the way people are able to manage the health, care and wellbeing of themselves and others. From smartwatches to online platforms for people to source, compare and schedule private healthcare services in the home, HealthTech companies are empowering the individual.


Putting power back into the hands of the patient is something the NHS has been keen to promote – a new government-backed initiative announced earlier this year will allow people suffering from mental health problems, dementia and disabilities to choose, pay and manage the treatments they want to receive, with the funds for this provided by the Government. While this is a welcoming step forward, the right type of infrastructure needs to be in place to ensure that patients have access to the most relevant health and care services. This is where HealthTech is ideally positioned to help. 


At the moment, the ability to source and pay for health and care services can be a complicated and time-consuming experience, and often finding the right type of care suited to a patient’s needs is much easier said than done. However, new innovations in the HealthTech space have catered to the rise of online platforms which provide a full list of health, care and wellbeing services, giving the patient greater choice and the ability to access trusted services. With the NHS seeking to empower the patient, it makes sense for industry and government bodies to complement such initiatives through the promotion of relevant HealthTech platforms.  


Outside of traditional care, new technology also provides new opportunities in the home. In truth, research has shown that the UK is on the cusp of a HealthTech revolution in preventive care, with wearable technology and new apps for detecting or monitoring problems becoming increasingly accessible.


HealthTech is necessary to help the UK cope with future demands. Rather than hoping for a silver bullet solution to the NHS’ problems, tech solutions have created a new approach to healthcare, with the patient empowered to take charge of their own wellbeing, whether that’s improving their fitness or sourcing secondary and domiciliary care services. 


The proliferation of new tools to give people insight into their health, and to connect individuals with vital care providers, means that more healthcare problems are treated within the home and prevented from spiralling out of control. As such, it is becoming increasing apparent that HealthTech has a valuable role to play in preventing the NHS from falling into a state of perpetual crisis.