As the National Health Service (NHS) in England continues to buckle under the increasing strain of a growing population, new and better ways of deploying its resources are urgently needed.
A recent report by independent think tank, The Kings Fund, revealed that the NHS is reaching breaking point – with rising patient demand, staff shortages and political pressures all contributing to the everyday challenges facing hospitals and general practices.
Doctors across England are struggling to cope under these new pressures; data from the Royal College of General Practitioners shows that the average workload has increased by 16% over the last seven years.
It is estimated that 13.5 million patients are being bounced back from hospitals to GPs for unnecessary appointments every year and with every 10-minute appointment costing the NHS £45, this isn’t a price it can afford to pay or sustain in the long term.
The NHS is now treating more patients than ever before and this demand is affecting all areas of care with GP surgeries, A&E and community services feeling the biggest strain.
With an estimated 340 million GP appointments conducted each year, these ‘boomerang’ appointments are leaving many patients who may need urgent care at risk, with staff unable to cope with the rising demand.
The British Medical Association has raised concerns that patient care is undermined when GPs are seeing as many as 60 patients per day, and has called for more action to be taken to ease the pressure.
Technology holds the ability to revolutionise healthcare services, improving efficiency and patient care. Although there is no single solution to solve this major crisis, altering the way we utilise technology is part of the answer to creating a more sustainable health care service.
Providing patients with the tools to safely and affordably manage and monitor their symptoms, or do a simple diagnostic test at home or in work, will help to alleviate some of the pressures being placed on general practices and hospitals.
We envision a future where a simple lateral flow test, purchased over the counter (OTC), could support the diagnosis of a minor ailment or recommend if a person should seek medical advice.
Empowering patients to purchase a simple OTC lateral flow test would not only support self-care and self-diagnosis but would dramatically simplify the steps that currently stand between people feeling unwell, receiving a diagnosis and getting an informed method of treatment.
The emergence of this technology could be a simple but effective step in helping to support the NHS, enabling people to take more responsibility for certain elements of their diagnosis or treatment.
With such uncertainty surrounding the future of the NHS, the ability to embrace new technology could offer a lifeline to those who can’t afford the investment of time and money required to receive a simple diagnosis from a doctor.
Continuous innovation will be crucial if we are to deliver new and improved ways to meet the growing demands of our society. Technology will help to pave the way for advancements in self-care, supporting a more sustainable future for our health service.