BLOG: We need an E-NHS

In a new blog, Joan Pons Laplana, NHS Digital clinical informatics fellow, says the NHS should put more focus on 'prevention' and empowering patients to take control of their care with the help of trusted digital tools.

Pons Laplana

The NHS is 70 this year.

From the beginning, migrants have played a vital role in the construction of the NHS since its creation. Without them, the NHS would not have been possible. More recently Indian, Filipino and European doctors and nurses have come to the UK to ensure that our NHS continues to be the best health care system in the world.

I am one of them. I came to the UK 17 years ago to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I landed in Luton on bonfire night with just £50 in my pocket and a suitcase full of hope. I have worked hard for the NHS ever since.

I love being a Nurse, but it has not always been plain sailing. Often, I feel frustrated by the system, its bureaucracy and the slow pace of change.

We are playing a catch up game and it often feels like we are not going anywhere.

'Patients need to stop being passive consumers of care' 

The NHS is going through a tough moment. We are constantly being reminded that we need to work more efficiently and effectively and we are being asked to go the extra mile on a daily basis. 

But, with increasing financial pressures and soaring demand, the NHS is changing. Questions over quality, services, technology and funding make it hard to imagine what the NHS might look like in 10 years’ time.

Critical to the future of the NHS is the public taking greater responsibility for its own health and wellbeing. As health professionals, we must support them.

Patients need to stop being passive consumers of care and become active and leading partners in their own health. Individual responsibility and lifestyle choices are as important to the success of the system as the quality or quantity of care provided.

The patient’s choice should be enhanced and our role as health workers needs to change from a provider to a facilitator. 

A big cultural change needs to happen.

Most of our focus is in trying to 'return' people onto a healthy state. Most of us became doctors, nurses or physiotherapists to do this. This mentality needs to change. A big emphasis needs to be put on prevention. 

Our role needs to move from being saviours to preventing illness from happening in the first place. A lot of us are not ready. We don’t need more health workers trying to be heroes. It’s a battle that we are never going to win because we are designed to die.

'Prevention is cheaper than the cure'

Our mentality should shift to thinking how to maintain people healthy in the community for as long as possible. It’s like, you tell a fireman that suddenly his main job is not to extinguish fires but to prevent them. The fire service did this and official statistics reveal fire deaths have fallen by 40% in last decade.

This a testament to the success of fire safety campaigns and the hard work done by fire and rescue authorities around the country, and others, to increase awareness. 

Resistance is unavoidable, but as my grandmother used to say: prevention is cheaper than the cure.

Nowadays, we can do anything from the palm of our hands: book a holiday, look at our bank account or talk to our friends from the other end of the world. Why can we not run our health from our mobile phone?

The past decade has seen rapid development and adoption of technologies that change the way we live. The NHS needs to start using these new technologies, embracing the new opportunities that they bring for our health and care system: improving the accuracy and usefulness of the information we gather; changing how and where care is delivered; and offering new ways to prevent, predict, detect and treat illness.

Technology plays a key role in a ‘healthy state’ NHS, both for patients and the public, and for the system. We are living in a 21st century society where communication is fast and accessible, but our NHS still using technology from 25 years ago. 

To be able to continue deliver good quality care and absorb the continue demand, we need to work smarter.

We need to start a digital revolution. We need an E-NHS. The future is bright, the future is digital.

Related content:

NHS Digital clinical informatics fellow calls for a 'digital revolution' 

Joan Pons Laplana

Transformation Nurse, James Paget University Hospital, NHS Digital Clinical Informatics Fellow

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