A PANDEMIC OPPORTUNITY
(i) From the beginning of the pandemic Government made clear their greatest concern long term would be to keep deaths and illness at the lowest possible level. To achieve this – to improve the chance of health gain, both in terms of quantity and quality of life – required both the development of a new vaccine and a highly effective distribution system well beyond what existed at the time.
(ii) The Covid-19 pandemic has destabilised for the better much of the often rigid thinking of many of those involved in delivering NHS and Social Care services. Boundaries – organisational and professional – that were previously defended with vigour have been blurred. Consultations have been provided at a distance to a degree not previously thought possible. Near patient testing technologies have been introduced at a greater pace than before. Immunisation sessions have been provided by many beyond doctors and nurses. Care homes have instituted protection measures. The list could go on.
(iii) To date, substituting new technologies for old has taken a distant third place behind workforce and service planning substitution. All three must now be viewed in the round, led by a national desire to achieve health gains (for cancers, heart disease, disability, mental health etc) .
(iv) The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has exemplified that this approach has great value. Now is the time to capitalize on this. The momentum established by a wide range of bodies and of NHS and Social Care clinicians, practitioners and managers must not be allowed to wane. And it should be linked to the technological innovations it is possible for UK industry and universities to produce.