75 Years of the NHS – A Journey Through Healthcare and Transformation
Today the UK spends around £283 billion (2022 figures) on healthcare, treating an estimated 570 million people every year, that’s 1.6 million interactions with GPs, in the community, accessing mental health services, in- and out-patient hospital appointments, calling NHS 111, and requiring ambulance services every day.
Millions of lives have been saved and improved by medical innovations pioneered by the NHS. For example:
In 1956 the first polio immunisations were given
In 1960 the first kidney transplant took place
In 1968 the measles vaccine was introduced
In 1979 the first heart transplant took place
In 1987 the first purpose-built AIDS ward was opened
The NHS was an early adopter of technological advances: 1972 saw the first use of CT scanners, allowing the first 3-D images of the body to be seen. In 1980 MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was introduced. And in 2007 a robotic arm operated on a heart patient for the very first time.
Today the NHS is a leader in the use of data, digital and tech in order to achieve its aims of not only treating illness but preventing it.
Over the last 75 years the NHS has been collecting data – it now holds millions of records which are used by clinicians, researchers, government agencies and charities to learn more about the diseases and conditions which affect our health, and then improve it. NHS Digital, the organisation which is responsible for collecting, storing, and using patient data, publishes over 200 statistical reports every year. Using this data, the organisation aims to improve our understanding of health and disease, targeting public health campaigns, monitoring safety within the NHS, and delivering health and social care services effectively.
Examples of the highly-targeted use of NHS data include:
University College London (UCL) used data from healthcare practitioners to discover how they could provide more personalised and effective ways to treat British South Asians and Afro-Caribbean patients with Type 2 diabetes, in order to tackle healthcare inequality
Bristol City Council used data to collate its Quality of Life Survey 2022/23 to provide key indicators, including measures of inequality, to identify trends in mortality and life expectancy within the city, enabling health and other professionals to target inequalities in health and other metrics
Today the NHS runs a Data Processing Services (DPS) platform which uses Cloud technology to ensure that the vast volumes of data it holds is secure, and to allow faster submissions. It also ensures that duplicates are not held by linking data sets and, because the data is anonymised, it allows data links between different care settings and geographical areas. This data is available via a variety of formats (dashboards, downloads, and specific data hubs such as General Practice Data Dashboards which GPs can access) and are free to use.
As well as the vast amounts of data that the NHS holds, it also innovates with digital technology that reflects our changing world. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The National Centre for Gaming Disorders is the UK’s only clinic which supports people with gaming disorders, and has seven clinics live across the UK. Specifically aimed at people who spend too much time and/or money on games, and concerned family members, the clinics help people realise that gaming can have a negative impact on their lives, and provide a care package, collaborating with mental health professionals on therapeutic based treatment with CBT sessions
The NHS in England is also the first provider in the world to explore the use of Extended Reality (XR) in training healthcare professionals to provide perinatal mental health services. The training involves learners using an augmented reality headset to interact with a virtual ‘patient’ called Stacey and practise the type of real life conversations they may have with someone with perinatal mental health issues, in a safe learning environment
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also being used within the NHS to help transform healthcare systems. Did Not Attends (DNAs) for outpatient appointments are a major avoidable cost. Over 15.4 million slots are missed every year, costing on average £216 million, and causing disruption and setting back treatment. This money, which equates to over 2,300 GPs’ salaries, more than 8,400 full-time community nurses’ salaries, or 216,000 Alzheimer’s drug treatment courses, could be better used elsewhere. The NHS’s new NHSX national artificial intelligence laboratory is investigating how it can predict DNAs in order to optimise resources and provide a follow-up service for patients to ensure they don’t miss out on the care that they need.
The world has changed immeasurably since the inception of the NHS, and technology has moved along with it. No longer are patient records held in paper folders, but are now accessible online for everyone to access in order to manage their own health, with NHS Log In. This allows individuals to access a range of medical information and services from booking a GP appointment to weight loss programmes.
The NHS remains one of the UK’s finest achievements; with the advancements that data, digital and technology provides, it looks to continue to save and improve our lives long into the future.If you’d like to know more about data, digital and tech roles within the public sector, or if you’re looking for talent to fill vacancies within these areas, call us on +44 020 8253 1800, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in the form here.