As of 8th November, the government has announced an investment of nearly £250 million to develop digital technology that will transform diagnostic procedures within the NHS. This is the latest in a series of government investments concerned with improving diagnostic services, such as the £2.3 billion investment announced during last month’s Spending Review.
The decision comes as a welcome response to increased waiting lists for treatment across the health service, which have grown by a fifth since the beginning of the pandemic - 5.3 million people were waiting for treatment in May 2021, up from 4.4 million in February 2020.
Waiting times have a direct effect on the levels of care provided and, consequently, the number of medical negligence claims made. Professor Sir Mike Richards’ recent review of the capacity within NHS diagnostics suggests that improved digitisation will drive greater levels of efficiency and consistency in the care provided.
By digitising diagnostics across the NHS, the government hopes to free up NHS staff time. Reduced administrative responsibilities translates to more time spent gathering and analysing test results – minimising the time it takes to conduct a test, identify the results, and diagnose a condition, will lead to earlier interventions, more effective treatment and an overall reduction in waiting times.
Currently, the process of accessing results is not entirely fit for purpose. The digitisation of NHS diagnostic services seeks to streamline this process, making it easier for nurses and doctors to share patients’ results across computer systems in hospitals, GP surgeries and labs, or view them from different locations.
The new technology will allow medical professionals to select the most accurate scan to reflect the patient’s symptoms and medical history, increasing the accuracy of requests to radiology and improving the quality of the scans themselves. It will also give imaging specialists the freedom to analyse an x-ray or scan from wherever they are, whenever they want, without requiring an imaging lab to do so.
The injection of funding into digitalised diagnostics for the NHS is good news for all healthcare providers, hospitals and individual practitioners alike. Unclogging the administrative backlog caused by manual processes will improve overall levels of care given to patients. Consequently, we will see fewer claims relating to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
If you’re a diagnostics company who wants to know more about how Lockton could help you, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Likewise, we would love to hear from consultants and GPs to learn how much of a practical difference this investment is likely to make when it comes to patient outcomes and risk management.
 George Stoye, Max Warner and Ben Zaranko, Could NHS Waiting Lists Really Reach 13 Million?, 8th August 2021, accessed 19th November 2021, https://ifs.org.uk/publications/15557