Written evidence submitted by Philips UKI (CBP0064)
- This response presents to the Health and Social Committee Philips’ insights and recommendations on the future of healthcare and hospitals and how best to tackle the severe diagnosis and treatment backlogs facing the NHS due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Philips is a leading health technology company employing 1,000 people across the UK and Ireland. Headquartered in Farnborough, we are committed to improving the lives of 2.5 billion people around the world by 2030 including over 70 million people living in the UK and Ireland. Philips delivers products and solutions that alleviate some of the biggest health issues faced by people in the UK today. We are dedicated to supporting the NHS and the health of the nation.
- Philips leverages advanced technology and deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions. We are a leader in diagnosis imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, in addition to consumer health and home care.
- We support patients, consumers and the NHS, providing us with a unique ability to help people live longer, healthier lives. We are distinctive in our capabilities across people’s complete health journey, from prevention and healthy living to diagnosis and treatment.
- Philips welcomes this opportunity to respond to the call for evidence on “The NHS Backlog”. We would be delighted to provide further briefings to the Health and Social Care Committee to provide greater detail on our experiences and insights into the future of healthcare.
Q4: How might the organisation and work of the NHS and care services be reformed in order to effectively deal with the backlog, in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term?
- Currently, the UK’s model of care designates resource into treating patients when they get sick, rather than taking a preventative approach to their health. However, as a result of COVID-19, Philips has seen first-hand the growing appetite for better data integration across care systems and care facilities alongside a growing acknowledgement of the benefits remote monitoring and consultations can bring to overall health management. A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (‘Power to the Patient’) found 64% of healthcare executives believed mobile health could dramatically improve outcomes by giving people greater access to medical information.
- The role of big data, analytics and remote diagnostic technology is driving improvements across the healthcare landscape. For example, we already see that technologies can allow patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, COPD and asthma to detect and manage their own condition from their own home, without the need to enter a hospital.
- As patients become more involved in the management of their own health at home, we anticipate this will have a significant impact on how and when hospitals and NHS services are used. It is important that these organisations look to the future in a way that champions preventative care and allows patients to play a more active role in their care. This will help to ensure we relieve hospitals and NHS services of some of the burdens they face today.
- Alongside this, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some existing deficiencies in data sharing in the UK. Poor data-sharing between primary and secondary care, as well as limited interoperability between electronic health record systems, has contributed to the burden of COVID-19 on both patients and healthcare providers, further exacerbating the current backlog.
- Addressing the backlog will require innovative models of care, built upon greater integration of healthcare data and automation of processes that capitalise on digital infrastructure and services. Central to this is digitising patient records and processes in GP practices and hospitals to enable interoperability and flow of patients through the system. Patient healthcare data in the UK and Ireland is often fragmented and held in silos across multiple organisations. Disconnected healthcare systems negatively impact on the provision of timely, safe and high quality care.
- Philips welcomed the ambitious plans set out by the Department for Health and Social Care to introduce legislation that enables faster innovation and integration of health and care services in England. This represents an important step forward in easing the long-term pressures on our health system and enables industry partners like Philips to develop innovative models to go further and faster in supporting NHS trusts.
- As an example, rapid pathways to diagnosis are being developed through a network of elective Community Diagnostic Centres (CDCs). CDCs minimise patient contact with hospitals, ensuring increased patient access to cut the backlog whilst reducing the burden on acute hospital sites.
- Philips strongly believes that an integrated health system and CDCs can play a significant role in improving the lives of those living in the UK and can help ease the current pressures on the NHS. This is why we have already started early investment into projects such as Rutherford Diagnostics, which is paving the way for the launch of a Community Diagnostic Centre in Taunton in September this year, which will use diagnostic technology to grow, support and shape the future of healthcare.
- Additionally, Philips also believes that new innovations can be utilised to better connect healthcare providers across health systems, particularly those in the imaging and diagnostics fields. Remote solutions have the potential to broaden the scope of collaboration and expertise sharing across imaging networks and the NHS as a whole. This not only improves diagnosis timings but also confidence in a right first time approach and helps pave the way for a more collaborative, faster and digitised NHS.
- Philips has also recently launched the Radiology Operational Command Centre (ROCC) to the NHS, a pioneering new imaging model to provide radiology departments with additional remote senior specialist support. This model is available for implementation in trusts now and enables faster, more accurate imaging analysis to help departments to reduce unnecessary repeat and recall visits, while also helping to reduce the backlog.
- Partnerships and initiatives such as Rutherford diagnostics and ROCC demonstrate first-hand how successful partnerships between industry partners and NHS trusts can use innovation and technology as an enabler to drive sustainable and improved clinical practices, patient outcomes and combat the NHS backlog.
● Philips recommends that immediate steps are taken to embrace the use of health technology throughout the NHS. It is also key that steps are taken to ensure the NHS is ready to adopt existing and future technologies.
● Philips has recommended that HM Government should explore the clinical applications of data integration, remote digital monitoring, and AI and how these innovations could improve people’s lives and reduce health inequalities
● Patients should be offered the opportunity to actively participate in the monitoring, evaluation and personalisation of their care using digital applications.
● The integration of care needs at all stages of a patient’s journey must be coordinated in a more “joined up way” by ensuring digital systems are used to their full potential with efficient sharing of accurate patient information between providers and settings
● DHSC and NHS England should mandate health providers at all levels to meet a set standard for the digital collection and sharing of patient data which promotes patient data protection while enabling interoperability / care integration.
● In addition, diagnostic capacity of the NHS should be expanded through Community Diagnostic Centres. Investing in and supporting the rollout of CDCs will improve access for vulnerable communities and reduce the need for patients to visit acute NHS settings, where the backlog is being felt most.
● It is critical that new patient pathways are implemented to help alleviate the increasing pressures on imaging services and patient backlogs. Examples such as ROCC demonstrate how innovation can be utilised to support healthcare providers and therefore greater consideration should be given to solutions such as these.
Q5: What positive lessons can be learnt from how healthcare services have been redesigned during the pandemic? How could this support the future work of the NHS and care services?
- The pandemic has taught us that large parts of care can and should be provided digitally, not only because it can deliver better outcomes to patients, but because it is often the smarter, more efficient and environmentally sustainable approach.
- The speed and intensity of the Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us to reflect on how care can be improved and be made more efficient for both patients and the NHS. As a health technology company, at Philips we see first-hand how the pandemic has accelerated emerging health technology trends, which can now be utilised to dramatically and positively reshape healthcare.
- For example, remote working has enabled services such as digital pathology and the radiology operations command centre (ROCC) to thrive, enabling some team members to work from home in support of onsite teams, thereby enabling safer working environments without disrupting care.
- While technology has played a critical role in helping the NHS manage through the pandemic, there is still work to do to ensure critical parts of the health system are joined up digitally. For example, we must ensure that every patient, carer, GP and hospital department has the technological and technical capacity to interact digitally. At present, there is variance between the experience of patients in different health systems. Part of raising and levelling the digital playing field is improving access to available technology, but also ensuring health records are systematically stored digitally to enable interoperability between health providers.
- However, as the ‘Reducing Healthcare Inequality and Enhancing the NHS’ report by researchers from Imperial College London and Philips shows, is vital that these health technology advances and opportunities are used to tackle many of the challenges currently facing the NHS, including an ageing population and severe healthcare inequalities as well as the backlog.
- Over the next decade the number of people over the age of 65 living in the UK is predicted to increase by 33 per cent. This will place additional strain on health services and so it is critical that the digital innovations that have succeeded during the pandemic are carried forward. This will ensure that the NHS and industry partners can continue to innovate and will be able to find more effective ways to deliver high quality care to more people - both in their homes and their own communities - lessening the burden on NHS hospital sites.
- Simultaneously, health services need to be more aggressive in supporting those living in more deprived areas, who invariably have lower life expectancy, live less years of healthy life and suffer from more long-term health conditions. These patients are more likely to have more complex health issues, more consultations with their GPs and yet more difficulty accessing GP appointments than patients living in less deprived areas.
- Forms of virtual healthcare including telehealth and wearables can play a critical role in monitoring the health of the population, reducing the requirement of in-person appointments, easing pressure on hospitals and preventing worsening health by proactively managing people’s health conditions.
● Considering the rapid move to telehealth and digital solutions during Covid-19 combined with the possible positive outcomes for patient care, HM Government should capitalise on the advances made by making telemedicine and remote monitoring more widespread, personalised and proactive at community, primary and secondary care levels
● This is an opportune moment to capitalise on the momentum towards a digital NHS, which will in turn help to address health inequalities in the UK. It is vital that steps are taken to ensure digital solutions are made available to all communities and areas.
● Philips recommends that steps are taken to involve communities and local authorities in the development and implementation of new strategies that address the social determinants of health
● Philips also recommends extending the capacity of radiology and pathology hubs to streamline and bolster patient care while also backing the introduction of regional radiology and pathology ‘hubs’ supported by state-of-the-art digital technology to improve the quality, efficiency and safety of care delivered to the NHS
● Philips believes that it is essential that the adoption of digital healthcare technologies within the NHS is considered from the perspective of all users, not just the most digitally engaged.
Q7: What can the Department of Health & Social Care, national bodies and local systems do to facilitate innovation as services evolve to meet emerging challenges?
- It is crucial that the lessons learned during the crisis are carried forward and that access to high-quality healthcare and the latest medical technology is fairly distributed, as noted in question 5, so nobody is left behind. It is only through population uptake of new pathways to care that we will be able to ease the burden on the NHS and tackle the backlog.
- Philips welcomed the ambitious plans set out by the Department for Health and Social Care to introduce legislation that enables faster innovation and integration of health and care services in England. This represents a welcome step forward in easing the long-term pressures on our health system and enables industry partners like Philips to develop innovative models to go further and faster in supporting NHS trusts.
- It is also critical that DHSC, NHS England and local health systems facilitate improved access to general practice in areas of deprivation through both addressing workforce shortages and funding telehealth and digital online services. Educating the public, particularly those in hard to reach areas, on the ease and use of digital health services is a crucial part of achieving this.