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Technology

AI and robots will help NHS deliver better care, claims health secretary

Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health and social care, wants to “empower” NHS staff to utilise the latest technology to provide the best possible healthcare.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care

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Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care, said: “I want to empower staff to offer patients modern healthcare more widely and more quickly”

A review of how tens of thousands of NHS staff can be trained to use the latest healthcare technology has been announced by Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health and social care.

The plans are part of an independent review into the training needs of NHS staff to ensure they are equipped to give patients the latest treatments, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Eric Topol, an expert in cardiology, genetics and digital medicine, will lead the review. He will look at opportunities where the NHS could invest in training for existing staff, and consider the implications on the skills required of future healthcare professionals.

Topol will also look at emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (including robotics), genomics and digital medicine. He previously led a US research programme on using technology and data for more precise, tailored patient treatment.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care, said: “Every week we hear about exciting new developments surfacing in the NHS which could help provide answers to some of our greatest challenges, such as cancer or chronic illness. These give us a glimpse of what the future of the whole NHS could be, which is why in the year of the NHS’s 70th birthday I want to empower staff to offer patients modern healthcare more widely and more quickly.”

Topol said that while it was hard to predict the future, “we know artificial intelligence, digital medicine and genomics will have an enormous impact for improving the efficiency and precision in healthcare”. 

“Our review will focus on the extraordinary opportunities to leverage these technologies for the healthcare workforce and power a sustainable and vibrant NHS,” he added.

A spokesperson from the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists said that while anything that enhances the NHS’s ability to deliver better safety while freeing up staff for front line care should be welcomed, “we would however reflect on the profession’s experience that automation cannot be used to replace people, but can supplement them to ensure they are able to be more productive and deliver the best possible care to their patients”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204778

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