Speaking at the Royal College of Physicians, the Secretary of State outlined his vision for the future of healthcare noting that COVID-19 had tested every part of “our infrastructure”, giving insights into what works and what does not. He said that coronavirus has catalysed structural shifts, in telemedicine data-driven decision-working and system working, that were already underway. Hancock pledged to ensure that the health system did not fall back into “bad old habits” and vowed to “bottle” the following behaviours: collaboration (“we work better when we work together”), speed (“it doesn’t have to take weeks and months to change anything”) and innovation (“having the backing and the permission to make the change”). The Secretary of State said he would draw upon seven major cultural lessons:
- Valuing people and trusting them as professionals (including building a system of “distributed authority” where decisions are made as close as possible to where the information is).
- Busting bureaucracy (with a call for evidence launched)
- Better tech means better healthcare
- Open borders (drawing upon ideas and expertise outside of the NHS)
- System works best when it works as a system
- Accountability matters (collaboration at a national level)
- The nation’s health is bigger than just the NHS (a focus on prevention, health inequalities and levelling up)
Hancock added that 50+ different reforms, introduced due to coronavirus, have already been identified as changes to keep and drive forward. He concluded by saying the health and social care system of the future needed to be one driven by collaboration, not competition, trust in professionals over bureaucracy and protecting the most vulnerable and helping people to live longer, healthier lives.
Commenting, Health Tech Alliance Chair Dame Barbara Hakin said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed the way that the health system operates and we welcome the Secretary of State setting out his vision for the future of healthcare. HealthTech has played a crucial role in the response and the future of healthcare is inextricably linked to the timely adoption of innovation. We look forward to working with the Department of Health and Social Care to realise this vision.”