At the weekend I had to go to hospital for a routine medical procedure.
We hear a lot of negative stories about the NHS but I can’t speak highly enough of the professionalism and warmth of the staff I met. However, my experience of the tech was mixed.
Early on one of the nurses came over to me and took my blood pressure and temperature and recorded the results on a tablet.
“Wow,” I thought. “This is progress.”
Then the very affable surgeon came round and explained the routine procedure he was carrying out.
He then drew a circle on my ribs with a pen where he would be operating and filled in a paper document, handing me the carbon copy underneath, which was virtually illegible.
There’s a big push by NHS England to create a paperless NHS at the point of care by 2020 and it can’t come soon enough. The technology is available so we should use it.
I had the operation and a lovely nurse handed me a copy of my notes for me to pass over to my GP, which I subsequently did.
I have absolutely no problem in playing postman, but what if I wasn’t as diligent or simply forgot?
The system is flawed. Surely technology would be a better option? Could a copy of my notes not be scanned in and emailed directly to my doctor?
A few days later I was speaking to a man whose father had been treated in hospital over the same weekend for a stroke.
He said the staff were brilliant but because they couldn’t access his medical records from the GP over the weekend, it created one unnecessary obstacle in his treatment.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has made much of the need for a seven-day NHS and I agree with that. If his (disputed) claim is right that 6,000 excess NHS deaths a year happen because of the so-called ‘weekend effect’ then something needs to be done.
However the biggest challenge facing the NHS isn’t the adopting of technology but the exchange of information between health professionals. It would be transformational.
For example if a man was admitted to hospital after being found unconscious in the street, how would doctors know what was wrong with him if he couldn’t speak for himself?
He could have been assaulted but a quick look at his medical records could uncover an underlying problem like diabetes which would make treatment more effective and quicker.
If the technology matches the compassion of the staff then we really will have a NHS to be proud of.