Looking beyond the NHS Long Term Plan to deliver better health

Healthcare, AI, chatbots


Earlier this year the Department for Health and Social Care announced a new plan to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes across the NHS. The plan sets out how the £20.5 billion budget settlement for the NHS, announced by the Prime Minister in summer 2018, will be spent over the next 5 years.

As part of this plan the NHS aims to provide new parents with mental health support for two years after their child is born, deliver digital GP appointments to all patients by 2023 and open more gambling addiction clinics. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how the NHS can embrace the latest advancements in technology to deliver on this plan.

Mental Health support for new parents

On a mission to provide the best maternity care in the world, the NHS announced that it will double the one-year period during which women currently have access to psychiatric assessments and care after birth. Partners will now also be offered mental health services, as part of plans to address post-natal depression among parents.

As well as delivering mental health support in person, parents of the future could be offered ongoing support, advice and guidance though an app or an AI-infused virtual assistant. These always-available assistants can also take responsibility for reminding users to take their medicine, monitoring a patient’s health status, booking appointments and providing instant responses to queries or concerns while flagging any major concerns to an appropriate healthcare provider.

Virtual assistants have already proven to be effective in providing mental health support. Leading experts in clinical psychology at Stanford University created ‘Woebot’, a digital assistant to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

Woebot works by helping users to think through situations with step-by-step guidance using methods in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It will also help users to learn more about their behaviours with intelligent mood tracking as well as providing over 150+ evidence-based lessons, exercises, and stories from their dedicated clinical team.

Translation chatbots could also help to break down the language barrier that prevents some parents from seeking mental health support. London alone is home to people from 270 different countries who speak 300 languages. Migrants and other international residents moving to the UK with little to no understanding of the English language are often left feeling isolated. But major developments in artificial intelligence over recent years has meant translation chatbots are able to instantly respond to questions in any language helping to bridge the gap that exists in helping vulnerable parents to connect with vital mental health support and services.

Digital GP appointments

One in every ten patients now wait longer than three weeks to see a GP. For some patients this wait could be too late.

The Government believes that digital access to GPs will aid early prevention and contribute to a reduction in premature deaths by tens of thousands.

In a pre-briefing for the plan, NHS England said that the blueprint to make the NHS fit for the future will use the latest technology, such as digital GP consultations for all those who want them, coupled with early detection and a renewed focus on prevention to stop an estimated 85,000 premature deaths each year. They went on to say that the plan would open a digital "front door" to the health service, allowing patients to be able to access health care at the touch of a button.

But video GP appointments on the NHS aren’t actually a new concept. If you live in London, you may just have been lucky enough to have already experienced a video GP consultation from the comfort of your own home. ‘GP at Hand’ was launched in November 2017. The organisation behind the app promised patients they would be able to book an appointment within seconds via its smartphone app and receive a video consultation with an NHS GP in under two hours of booking, anytime, anywhere.

Since it’s rollout to zones 1,2 and 3 in London, the app has been well received with 26,500 people having signed up and four-in-five users rating it 5 stars. It has yet to be rolled out across the UK, but early indications show it’s definitely the way forward for the NHS.

Gambling Addiction Clinics

The NHS currently only has only one facility dedicated to treating people hooked on betting, but with 400,000 problem gamblers and two million at risk, Theresa May has ordered Health Secretary Matt Hancock to open more of them.

While gambling addiction clinics can provide structured support, they need to be complimented by additional support measures which is where digital cognitive behavioural therapy comes in.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is considered one of the most effective ways to treat addictions by helping suffers to change the way they think and behave. Digital cognitive behavioural therapy works in a similar way but is delivered on mobile phones, tablets or computers, meaning users can access help quickly, avoiding waiting lists. 

Digital and online interventions have proven to play an effective and important role in treatment, particularly when backed up by face to face support, and the NHS Long Term Plan makes clear that the health service will continue to look to harness the benefits these advancements can bring.

The NHS Long term plan is promising, but technology adoption will be absolutely instrumental in achieving its objectives. To do this, NHS Trusts will need to turn to forward-thinking technology providers, capable of delivering the future of healthcare.

At ANS we have a longstanding history of partnering with some of the UK’s biggest NHS Trusts to deliver ground-breaking transformational initiatives that support the NHS’ long term plan. From IoT solutions generating valuable data and giving visibility into operational functions to improve patient care, to AI infused medical equipment, empowering clinicians to make faster diagnosis and generate better outcomes for patients.

If you’re ready to push boundaries and build the NHS of the future, join us along with Microsoft at our NHS Hackathon 2019. The action-packed day has been designed to enable you to discover how to build an intuitive solution to the NHS’ real-world challenges. Throughout the day you’ll be joined by David Walliker, CIO at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust, Annette Garner, Healthcare Principal Solution Specialist at Microsoft, Scott O’Neill, Data Solutions Architect at Microsoft and application development experts from ANS.

To find out more, or to register, click here.

Alternatively, why not check out how we’ve helped some of the biggest healthcare trusts to transform the patient experience here.


Posted by Imi Hussain