This year Britain’s National Health Service celebrates its 70th birthday. Formed in 1948, it was the first state health service in the world. Today, the modern NHS
is almost unrecognizable from the one that was
created 70 years ago. It’s the world’s fifth biggest employer with a budget of 110
billion pounds a year. But it’s in urgent need of treatment. Like many healthcare
systems, the NHS is faced with a funding shortfall
and critical staff shortages meaning its future looks perilous. Lord Ara Darzi is one of
the world’s top surgeons and a former British Health Minister. He’s been on the healthcare
frontline for three decades. And he’s come up with a
plan for reviving the NHS. These are my talking points. The government needs to
transform the NHS from a sickness service to a
health and wellbeing service. Most of the chronic disease
is related to human behavior. The NHS spends almost nine billion pounds a year dealing with
diseases related to smoking and the growing obesity epidemic. To cut costs, the
government needs to tackle this public health crisis at its root. We do this in three ways. One, regulation, banning smoking was a wonderful example of that. Second, taxation. Introducing sugar tax,
or a levy on alcohol. Thirdly, behavioral intervention. How do we help people
make the right choices? We need to embrace innovation
whether that is digital which has transformed
every aspect of our life, we need to do the same in health. The NHS is still running on paper and fax. We need to move from that archaic times into the new times of digital. The NHS is the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines and in some hospitals, medical equipment is no
longer fit for purpose. A recent report found that
machines from the 1980s were still in use in NHS hospitals. We need to decommission the old stuff and save money to pay
for the new innovations. Robotics, new drugs, new interventions. We need to look at frugal innovations, technologies that are exceptionally cheap but at the same time
delivering as good an outcome from a patient’s perspective. In the 21st century, data is the energy or the fuel of transformation. Anything you could measure you can improve and data is one of the ways of doing that. One million people use
the NHS every 36 hours. But there’s no centralized
system where doctors can access their medical data. Most patients seeing me expect me to have all the data from their general practice. We need to drive this integration between primary care, hospital, and
back into the community. You can actually predict
disease before you see the manifestation of disease
by segmenting the population and identifying those at great risk. To do this, the NHS will have to tackle fears over personal data being shared. Sharing data is critical
from a patient’s perspective. And we need to win the
confidence of the public when it comes to the privacy and
security aspect of data sharing. The NHS is facing a funding gap. By 2020, it’s estimated to
be 20 billion pounds short. A lot of people out there
think investing in healthcare is in a bottomless pit. I could confidently tell
you, not just my work, look at the work of the Lancet Commission, the World Innovation
Summit for Healthcare, the best return on investment any country could make is in health. Healthy nation means a productive nation. Healthy nation means economic growth. For every pound you spend in health, you get two pounds back. Quality should be the organizing principle of any health system. It’s a wonderful future if we embrace it.