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Demos - Collaboration is key to unlocking potential of HealthTech to address winter pressures in the NHS

A major new report from Demos has examined how innovation and technology can help alleviate pressures and provide a solution to the NHS during the winter months.

The cross-party think tank has launched a paper entitled Winter is Coming. HealthTech is Here, after speaking to healthcare professionals and HealthTech innovators about the challenge of ending the annual winter crisis, and the opportunities and barriers in using technology and diagnostics to ease the burden.

Our NHS is under immense pressure. Faced with an ageing population and growing demand for its services, coupled with an overstretched workforce, it’s facing significant challenges in delivering its services and meeting targets, particularly during the winter months.

The report, which was supported by Roche Diagnostics, concluded that technologically-enabled developments such as AI-assisted analysis, rapid diagnostics and new models of remote or self-administered care have the potential to play a transformative role but both technologists and healthcare professionals need to be more open to collaboration and listening to one another to build greater understanding; for NHS providers to open their doors to innovation; for technologists to listen and respond to the problems NHS providers face; for common standards to help support a marketplace of ideas and innovation; and for the public to be empowered to influence the system from the patient perspective.

The report also considered the importance of forward planning in dealing with increased demand on the NHS, noting that many commercial organisations are able predict spikes based on weather forecasts and other factors, but the NHS is currently unable to have the same level of responsiveness.

Demos acknowledges that the NHS already has access to some of these technologies, while the Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, is a strong advocate for them. However, it is clear that there are ongoing difficulties that are preventing their full benefits from being realised. While healthcare professionals highlighted the challenge of adopting innovation across the current system, Demos found that Hancock’s ambitious proposals may fall flat if misunderstandings and frustrations between providers and technologists continue.

Based on the findings of the paper, Demos is calling for:

  1. A collaborative exercise with healthcare providers, industry and start-up representatives to develop a single set of standards for healthcare data and system interoperability.

  2. Medical technology and diagnostics, evaluated by NICE, shown to be cost effective and of clinical benefit, given equal status to pharmaceutical products in their evaluation, recommendation and funding mandate.

  3. More outcome data published, with greater access given to patients so they can make more informed decisions about their choice of healthcare provider.

  4. Academic Health Science Networks expanded by opening an incubator alongside existing accelerators.

Commenting on the paper’s findings, the author, Demos Researcher Elliot Jones said

“It is clear that breaking down communications barriers will be essential for the future of our NHS. There are so many promising innovations and technologies out there waiting to be harnessed for the health of the public.

“However, there are fundamental misunderstandings that need to be overcome, data that needs to opened up to patients, standards and systems that need to be collaboratively developed, in order to make that happen.”


Winter is Coming. HealthTech is Here

For more information about this paper, please contact:

Suzie Curran, Head of External Affairs
020 3878 3955 | 07951 256 145

About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research.

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