Channel hopping NHS style…

Many of us will have seen Live on Mars TV Series, the outlandish tale of a policeman finding himself thrust back into the past to deal with the problems of the future. While it is clearly fiction it may be nearer the truth than you might think.  The NHS have flipped the story by using the technology of the past to deliver change today. And sadly that is not a good thing.

NHS Direct’s aim was to encourage people to go online and self care rather than calling 999 or turning up at their GP surgery or A&E. You can measures it success by analysing the fall in such attendances.  It also provides a channel for people who think they may have one or other of the more contagious flus we have all but forgotten about.

So it is some interest that I see the NHS abandoning NHS Direct and moving to NHS 111, a call centre solution… Yes, that’s right moving people from online to the phones…. So what is that about?

Perhaps the data suggests that people calling 111 are encouraged to self care, perhaps fewer attend GPs or A&E… Well the data, and the trials are not complete yet, seems to show that many more people attend their GPs and A&E after calling 111 than would have been the case if NHS Direct had been used.

So why is the NHS making the change.   I think there are 3 reasons

  • The failure of the Information Strategy … The latest attempt has been pulped… So that is two epic fails in a row.
  • The cost of 111 is less than NHS Direct … The NHS struggles to understand  the demand side cost of what it does… So while 111 may cost less;  the effect of the strategy is to probably  increase the costs of the NHS as a whole.
  • The ICT function and strategy of the NHS still lacks sufficient, capable and motivated leaders… Who is actually in charge… Where is the kind of leadership that has made Kaiser Permanente ICT such a success.

So what is it that we should do:

  • Publish the NHS information strategy in its current form
  • Create a community of people who can debate and crowd source an improved strategy
  • Develop in the minds of NHS Senior and political leaders an understanding of what an effective ICT strategy would look like and the advantages it would deliver.

In the next episode ….

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