ON Thursday, Sajid Javid, the Tory Health Secretary, made a euphoric speech to the Health Service Journal Digital Transformation Summit.
He praised the Covid pandemic for opening the doors to mass take up of the NHS app. He said: ‘It (the pandemic ) pushed digital transformation to levels that we never thought possible and gave this country’s digital infrastructure the biggest stress test in history.’
He said that 24 million people had adopted the NHS app in relation to Covid-19. This was marvellous because the NHS app could now be used by patients to ‘manage their own care.’
‘Through the smarter use of NHS data and the adoption of emerging technologies we can move services from generalised to personalised and give everyone access to the information and the tools that they need to manager their health.’
He said: ‘When I think about what the app will look like in the future, I see a platform where you can directly communicate with your health provider, where you can see all your test results and documents in one place, and where you can get personalised advice to manage your own health.’
The idea is that there will be a market and that patients will be consumers and shop around.
The reason for his elation at this prospect is laid out in NHS England’s (NHSE) ‘Delivery plan for tackling the Covid 10 backlog of elective care’ February 2022. It says: ‘How we will deliver’ – ‘We will build on the existing patients right to choice … of provider if a patient is waiting too long.’
Thus the government is banking on pushing patients who wait years for necessary scans and operations to use the App to use the choice of opting for a private provider, to deal with their condition.
Javid is also ecstatic that an app will also make it easier for patients to be told to stay at home and deny them the proper acute care they may need in a hospital ward.
He says: ‘We have seen the brilliant use of virtual wards throughout the pandemic and I’m pleased that NHSE Planning guidance gave them a very important role.’
He is absolutely clear that ‘electronic patient records are the essential prerequisite for modern, digital NHS. Without them, we cannot achieve the full potential for reform.’
But he fails to spell out exactly what reform means.
Full electronic records for all NHS and social care of the population, would be used by the incoming Health insurance companies which are due to dominate the 42 new Integrated Care systems, to direct patients to cheapest care available with the lowest staffing ratios, and to use the private sector as often as possible.
Insurance companies need patient data for financial reasons, to estimate prices of care to milk contracts off the NHS.
Patients need qualified professionals to guide them to the best care, NOT to be left on their own to navigate a market system with apps.
The millions being used to collect the populations data and digitise it should be spent instead on mass recruitment and training of qualified health staff, and the opening of more NHS beds and facilities to urgently address the huge backlogs of care that have piled up during the government’s terrible mismanagement of the pandemic.