The COVID crisis has demonstrated what a remarkable organisation our NHS is. Sure, it has its problems, but they can be fixed. For such a large organisation it has two important strengths. First it is dearly loved by the British people who are both its customers and its shareholders. Second its 1.4 million employees display a remarkable degree of dedication both to the organisation and to its purpose of making people well. And in its patients‚’ records it presents a huge opportunity for data driven research which could be transformational.
Transformation of the NHS and the medical services sector will require six main initiatives and there is one important red herring. The organisational structure will have to revert to something like it was before 2012; the creation of independent trusts was simply wrong. We will need to invest in preventative medicine so that fewer people require treatment for conditions such as obesity, diabetes, or depression. We need a straightforward and robust computer system for patients‚’ records since these are the basis of the whole system. And the database so created will provide the basis for a mind-blowingly huge amount of research using data mining. The research results will drive the development of two world beating industries giving the UK leadership in medical services and pharmacology. Finally, there is a host of important but simpler problems such as dealing with waiting lists, procurement, appointments, contingency planning and underperforming areas. These can be addressed by a culture of continual improvement, mutual assistance and comparative data. This already happens in some parts of the service.
The red herring is privatisation. It does not much matter who owns the hospitals (the GP practices are almost exclusively privately owned) so long as the service remains free at the point of delivery.