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NHS staff want investment in digital tech in spite of frustrations

NHS staff want investment in digital tech in spite of frustrations
By Julie Griffiths
22 November 2023

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of NHS staff see investment in tech as a priority, finds a BT survey.

But almost the same number (72%) of people using digital tech in the NHS every day think it is being held back by a lack of integration with existing technologies.

And nearly half (48%) said small gripes, such as needing to re-enter passwords at every turn, were causing frustration.

Nevertheless, 76% of the 121 NHS workers polled believe that health tech has already improved the standard of healthcare across the UK. However, there is broad consensus that the NHS remains a long way behind other sectors.

The survey, conducted between September and October 2023, revealed that 81% believed a greater use of digital diagnostic tools would cut NHS wait times and a similar proportion (83%) expected them to improve patient outcomes. Over three quarters (76%) said that they would ultimately cut NHS costs.

Virtual ward technology was also viewed positively, with 76% believing further investment in this space would cut waiting times, while also improving patient outcomes (77%) and cutting costs (71%).

However, 59% believed pilots are taking too long to reach widespread adoption, and that this is holding back patient care. And two-thirds (67%) said digital training must be a key focus of investment in the future of the NHS.

Professor Sultan Mahmud, BT’s Director of Healthcare, said that those on the frontline were clear about the benefits of digital tech and he called for a collaborative approach to take it forward.

‘We have the technology – what we need now is a coordinated approach. Government, citizens, NHS leaders and tech providers must work together to focus on the investment in infrastructure and delivery mechanisms that can help the challenged workforce. This is about realising the digital dividend of improved patient experience and reduced administrative burden for our clinicians,’ he said.

The research found 93% of NHS workers saw speedier access to diagnosis and treatment as either critically or very important for the future of the healthcare system, and 89% feel the same about curtailing wait times for test results.

Hospital waiting lists have reached record levels this year, with 7.7 million people waiting for treatment.

Dr Paul Bhogal, consultant interventional neuroradiologist and member of BT’s clinical advisory board, said technology had an important role to play in the future of the NHS.

‘The challenges facing the NHS are considerable, in some cases chronic, and nobody is under the illusion that the solutions will be simple, but clearly technological innovation is a big part of how we are going to succeed.

‘If we want to improve access to healthcare in the UK, while improving patient outcomes, we must find technology that works, and put it in the hands of those that can put it to work,’ he said.  

The survey of NHS staff follows BT’s research earlier this summer, which polled 2,000 members of the general public on digital technology in healthcare. That research found two thirds (64%) believed it to be a worthwhile investment.

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