Simon Stevens calls for greater investment in diagnostics at NHS Expo


Greater capital investment in infrastructure and diagnostics is needed to cement the NHS’ prospects over the next decade, the chief executive of NHS England has said.

In his keynote address at NHS Expo in Manchester, Simon Stevens said more funding was needed to build on recent Government investments, including the £250 million for a National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab announced last month.

He said “concrete action” backing the Long Term Plan had better placed the health service for the next five years, but called on the government to do more.

“The prospects for the NHS over the next five years are stronger than they were when we met here last September because we not only have a funding settlement, we have the Long Term Plan,” he said.

“There are things we still need to get right and there are things we need from the government. We need strong, multi-year capital settlement to invest in infrastructure and diagnostics, building on the kinds of progress we’ve seen in AI.”

He told a packed audience that work was already underway to “fundamentally change” the way the NHS works, referencing Sir Mike Richards’ review into screening programmes and the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) review of NHS health checks.

Of the screening review he said: “The goal here is, rather than a series of segmented vertical screening programmes, we actually have a more targeted offer that’s more convenient for patients.

“For example, a woman can get a cancer check on her lunch break rather than having to have a series of appointments at a GP surgery or breast screening service.”

The review of NHS health checks, announced last month, aims to explore how analytics and data-driven technologies can deliver personalised health advice to patients.

Mr Stevens also used his speech to address the biggest news of the moment: Brexit.

He called on all healthcare leaders to make Brexit planning their “top operational priority” over the next two months, whether the UK leaves with or without a deal.

“A huge amount was put in place by the NHS in the run up to the Mach 29 deadline and of course leaving, if that’s what we do, at the end of October is different to leaving at the end of March,” he said.

“Brexit readiness is clearly front and centre of the operational requirement on frontline leaders in the NHS right now.”

Earlier this week Digital Health News reported that the full power of innovative digital technologies “will not be achieved” if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal.

It comes amid concerns there may be delays in sharing health data between the UK and the EU if Britain leaves without a deal on 31 October, as the country would no longer be part of data sharing policies and would have to apply for an adequacy agreement – the shortest time frame for approval so far being 18 months.

The DHSC is expected to publish updated guidance for trusts and suppliers before 31 October.

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