"There is huge opportunity to use technology in healthcare"Halima Khan
Nesta welcomes the Long Term Plan for England and its ambition for the health system to proactively tackle health inequalities, use the next generation of technology and increase prevention.
In particular, we welcome the focus on people having more control over their own health and more personalised care. We’ve been researching, funding and advocating for this shift with our partners for several years - so it’s fantastic to see what we call ‘people powered health’ recognised alongside the other four changes to the NHS service model.
In particular, we support the NHS Comprehensive Model of Personalised Care which includes social prescribing, community-based support including peer support, personal health budgets and, importantly, a commitment to a different relationship with people based on choice, sharing control and understanding what matters to them. This is welcome recognition that people need emotional and practical support to build their confidence and motivation, and become active participants in decisions about their health and wellbeing - something we are exploring through Good Help.
We also welcome the recognition of the need to bring the NHS into the next phase of the digital age. There is huge opportunity to use technology in healthcare, from artificial intelligence that spots diseases early, to 3D printed limbs that can offer better and cheaper functionality than traditional prosthetics, as well as drone deliveries of organs and sharing of useful data. However, if it is badly-designed technology can be dehumanising and a barrier to good healthcare. So, the government must ensure that these innovations are designed and used to give people greater control over their health and data, rather than less - and in ways that promote the public good.
At the same time, we recognise the challenges of turning the ambitions in the Plan into reality. There are the significant challenges of funding and workforce. However, there are additional challenges beyond even these. To succeed in preventing avoidable ill health, this plan must engage with people differently and in ways that genuinely empower them to take on healthier behaviours. This must be done in ways that don’t create a sense of blame, tick-box approaches or shifting responsibility to patients and frontline staff without the right support and investment. Key to this will be how the NHS works with local government and voluntary and community sector, in ways that reinforce the different strengths of these sectors.
So, we welcome the Plan and its ambitions to transform the health system to become more joined-up, proactive and personalised - but we urge the changes to be done with people, frontline staff and the voluntary and community sector (rather than to them).