Will the NHS ever catch up?

Will the NHS ever catch up?

Written By

Caroline Andrewes

The recent news today that the NHS Digital have declared that public clouds can host patient data is at first glance a major step forward for one of the most budget-stretched, pained Government services.  With Teresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashing over NHS cash, last year’s Wannacry disaster (anyone still on XP?) and patient waiting times being a topic of conversation for even the healthiest of individuals, is this latest news really going to transform our health service?

In 2014 I had the pleasure of visiting a Midlands-based hospital where I was shown around by passionate, enthused but busy nurses and spoke to individuals involved in managing the hospital and associated peripheral services.  It was enlightening and fascinating.

There were comments made about staff welfare, the state of their internal IT, the fact that most doctors use their personal phones to communicate with each other during the day. A whole day of operations can be cancelled just because a single desktop computer situated in the theatre has a problem – maybe it’s just running low on memory?  Let’s face it, so many of them are over 4 years old because the policy of sweating assets has had to be adopted due to less money and more patients.

I came out of the visit motivated to try and help, to deliver a solution that would improve the efficiency of the Trust, desperate to support them in their drive to do more for less.  And today, in 2018, nothing has changed – I still feel committed that so much more can be done.

The desire to try and help the NHS is already there, from a plethora of software providers, infrastructure vendors and systems integrators.  But still, the NHS lags far behind in terms of introducing innovation into their non-clinical systems.  There are fabulous pieces of scanning equipment and laboratory systems that are worth their cost, as they directly contribute to saving lives and making people better.  However, when it comes to an administrator’s 7-year old PC, the paper-based appointment cards, the slow running admin servers that don’t have enough compute power, more definitely needs to be done; and is isn’t because there aren’t companies out there offering such innovation.

Will this opening up of public cloud for patient data really make a difference?

For me, the NHS simply doesn’t seem able to stand still long enough to truly take advantage of some of the policy changes that are made and the clever solutions that are designed by teams like ours who genuinely want to make a difference.  Delivering technological improvements requires expensive investment in requirements analysis, procurement teams, and sheer time from those health experts – who for most of the day and night, are working their fingers to the bone just to try and keep the cogs turning and the budget balanced as far as possible.

The public sector are notoriously slow, but for a service dedicated to keeping us alive and well it will continue to deliver cumbersomely and expensively until it has time to stop and reflect, take more risks and ultimately experience some short term pain for the long term gain.

I look forward to seeing how many Trusts actually move their patient data to a public cloud service over the next 12 months.  My bet is <5% – I’ll be gladly proved wrong.


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