After 75 years in operation, the NHS is a source of national pride and a symbol of equality. However the system is clearly under pressure and there are fears for its future. 

In its recent NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, the government set out plans for a major recruitment drive, but it admits that attracting new doctors and nurses by itself will not be enough to meet the challenges ahead. The report says the NHS will also need to improve productivity through the use of new technology, and identifies a number of innovations that could help.

The fact is that technology already underpins the success of the NHS. While nurses and doctors remain the public face of the service, behind the scenes a huge army of IT workers and technicians help to keep it running. New systems are being implemented all the time and helping to transform service delivery and the NHS is a world leader in some sectors including AI and genomics.

Based on the report and on our own experience in the NHS, here are six technologies that are already changing the way it operates and could help it meet the challenges ahead:

Artificial intelligence (AI)

The NHS AI Lab is one of the largest initiatives of its type worldwide, with 86 current evaluation projects, some already showing promising results. The evidence shows it saves time, enhances efficiency and is already improving outcomes for patients. 

Diagnostics is one area where we are seeing early wins. By using AI as a ‘first reader’ on chest X-rays and other images, AI speeds up the screening process and can reduce the time that suspected lung cancer patients must wait for a follow-on CT scan from seven to under three days.

AI also offers huge potential to automate processes. Some hospitals and GP clinics are already using speech recognition to transcribe notes. Studies have shown that in general practice, over 70% of a clinician’s time is spent on admin yet 44% of this could be automated. 

In the longer term, AI could support predictive health analytics, triage and preventive healthcare, speed up the drug discovery process while generative AI could transform work across all disciplines. 

Demystifying Tech: Harnessing AI within your business – with Ben Grubert

Inevitable CEO Ben Grubert will discuss the rise of AI, the evolving regulatory landscape and offer practical tips for harnessing ethical AI into your business in BusinessCloud’s Demystifying Tech podcast webinar. You can sign up at the link above

Robotic process automation (RPA) 

Automating back-office tasks typically reduces admin costs by 20-30% while increasing speed and improving safety. RPA is already used by all 42 of the new Integrated Care Systems and many of the NHS trusts, but the report says there are opportunities for further uptake. The NHS aims to see RPA in place across all systems in 2023 and to transform service delivery by 2025. 


Robotics has revolutionised surgery over the past two decades and its use continues to grow. New equipment gives surgeons better 3D views and more precise control, and enables operations to be carried out with smaller incisions. Patients also benefit from shorter recovery time and better cosmetic results. 

Remote monitoring 

Technology now enables clinicians to monitor patients from afar, while alerting them where interventions are required. It not only reduces staff time and hospital admissions, but also empowers patients to manage their own condition.

Remote monitoring really took off during the pandemic, with over a million pulse oximeters given out to help manage Covid patients at home since November 2020. The same large-scale approach is being used to monitor blood pressure and the NHS aims to apply it to more serious conditions such as cardiac and respiratory disease in the future.

Increasingly technology is helping patients to stay out of hospital altogether. Virtual wards already provide hospital-level care to patients at home, and the number of beds in them is set to rise from 7,500 to 10,000 by winter 2023. Meanwhile work continues to find ways to use monitoring to help older people live independent lives and reduce the risk of falls.

Electronic patient records (EPRs)

While NHS missed its original target to be paper-free by 2020, a major drive is now taking place to move patient records online, with all hospitals due to adopt EPRs by 2025. EPRs enable medics to access patient data from any location, resulting in faster and more accurate diagnoses, while the data they generate provides valuable business intelligence to help organisations improve their performance. Some trusts are already using techniques such as data mining and predictive analytics and others will no doubt follow suit.


The study of genes makes it possible to predict, diagnose, and treat diseases more precisely than ever before. The NHS aims to be the first national healthcare system to offer whole genome sequencing as part of routine care, including testing for all cancer patients and children seriously ill with a likely genetic disorder. Genomics will enable the NHS to provide personalised care and aid early detection and treatment.

In the face of the current crisis facing the NHS, technology offers hope and also opportunity. The NHS was first health system in the West to offer free healthcare to the entire population. Its unique structure allows it to deliver advances at a scale and pace that no other healthcare provider could match. In the new era of digital healthcare, it can continue to lead the way.