Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

To save the NHS, copy Tesco – Five ways the Health Service needs to modernise, stat

The NHS is in the eye of a perfect storm. Huge, unpredicted demand, flat-line funding, staff and skills shortages, and – with an election just months away – no clear idea what happens next. In the circumstances I can understand NHS bosses looking to save money. But last week they did something incredibly stupid. Without much fuss, a £100 million investment in nursing technology promised by David Cameron has been cut by £35 million. This is the last thing we can afford to scrimp on. Look at the world outside the NHS: managing information and analysing data is now the cornerstone of most businesses. Many of us take it for granted that we can bank online, book a holiday online and buy our groceries online. Yet large parts of the NHS are still in the age of pen and paper, costing the frontline a fortune in lost efficiency. The nurse technology fund was destined to help end an NHS lunacy where district nurses, visiting carers and others – currently equipped with steam-driven computing systems that don’t talk to the patient’s GP practice – share vital patient data on one system, without forms, faxes, or files of paperwork.

This is the sort of technology British Gas, BT and Virgin broadband engineers use to efficiently schedule and monitor customer visits. Mini-cabs use it to see where their next job is coming from. In health, it would mean monitoring care schedules and outcomes on tablets or smartphones.

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Large parts of the NHS are still working in the era of the gas-lamp Photo: ALAMY

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