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NHS tech emerges from the dark ages


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Thursday, 13 December 2018

NHS tech emerges from the dark ages

The NHS will be banned from using papyrus and stone tablets under new rules designed to drag health service communications “out of the dark ages”.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, a fan of modern high technology, has expressed impatience at the use of outmoded means of communication including smoke signals, talking drums and pigeons. Mr Hancock says he won’t rest until the printing press and wireless telegraphy have been adopted throughout the NHS. 

“It’s ridiculous that while other industries have embraced printing and similar technological advances, the NHS continues to rely on inefficient, centuries-old means of communication,” he told a conference of seers and druids at the King’s Fund.

Mr Hancock reserved his most scathing criticism for trusts that rely on human messengers – typically junior doctors – who are required to carry messages over great distances on foot, often without a proper rest break or adequate provisions.

The ancient order of physicians, the BMA, said it welcomed the health secretary’s call for modernisation but warned against going “too far, too fast”. A spokesman said that doctors would need to be reassured that printing was safe and clinically effective before recommending its use by the profession.

The BMA’s position was backed by the RCGP, which said there was “a very real danger that printing would increase the already intolerable strains on general practice”.

General practitioners would need support to make the transition from handwritten communications it warned, amid calls from local medical committees for a “printed communications enhanced service” to incentivise training and a new national fund to reimburse GPs for the infrastructure costs of adopting the new technology.

NHS England said it was “listening to the concerns of elders” and planned a full consultation to be followed by a phased rollout. Printing exemplars would each receive several guineas to develop their own variants of Mr Caxton’s invention. “We recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all implementation strategy and that each area will need a locally-determined solution,” said a spokesman.

Sites interested in joining the programme will need to submit written bids setting out how they plan to evaluate their projects, how serfs will be involved, and how their innovations will be spread to the rest of the NHS. Each area will be required to complete a “printing maturity index” to assess their state of readiness.

“We think there’s a very real prospect that printing could be available across the entire NHS as early as the nineteenth century,” the spokesman said.

Physicians’ leaders are more cautious about wireless telegraphy with several calling it “the devil’s own work”. The RCGP said it would seek assurances that the telegraph was safe after reports from pilot sites that evil spirits had used it to gain access to doctors’ surgeries where they were blamed for a spate of impregnated virgins, a plague of warts and numerous outbreaks of brain fever.

The health secretary’s drive for innovation will not stop there. He told the King’s Fund that he would like to see the abacus replace coloured stones for counting and he urged NICE to review its guidelines on the use of leeches for blood-letting.   

Technology editor: NHS Networks  


Anonymous says:
Dec 14, 2018 02:25 PM

Loved this. Just brilliant. Really made me chuckle. Well done.