Hunt calls for focus on science and technology to tackle NHS challenges

Jeremy Hunt has called for investment in technology to revolutionise how the NHS operates, saying the service has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle its biggest challenges.

The Health Secretary said unsustainable "sticking plaster solutions" would not diminish pressures from an ageing population, improve cancer survival rates or cut waiting times for mental health services, and called for radical change.

The Prime Minister has pledged a long-term funding plan for the health service, which is celebrating its 70th year.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt said the biggest risk was that "we sort out yesterday's problem tomorrow" and that extra money was not spent strategically.

"In 10 years' time we won't be talking about today's buzzwords but the dramatic transformation of modern healthcare by technology and medical innovation," he said.

In April, Mr Hunt wrote to Tory MPs asking for help to solve funding problems in the NHS after the "most challenging" winter for many years.

Technology could revolutionise health care, ministers said (Lynne Cameron/PA)
Technology could revolutionise health care, ministers said (Lynne Cameron/PA)

In the article he said that with an injection of taxpayers' cash "we must prove that every penny is well spent" and that waste and productivity issues in the day-to-day running of the health service were solved.

The Health Secretary acknowledged that the NHS had a "chequered history" with IT projects, but said the service had the potential to be a global leader of a technological revolution.

"So this surely is our opportunity: to use modern science and technology not just to fix the old problems but lead us to brand new solutions," he said.

A national IT programme designed to create electronic patient records for use across the NHS in England turned into one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascoes in the history of the public sector.

Launched in 2002, the National Programme for IT collapsed in 2011 at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of nearly £10 billion.

Mr Hunt said he had "no doubt" the NHS would be able to use technology to define it as a health service in the 21st century.