Procuring technology can only be successful when coupled with time and capital to develop an action plan, writes David Roots

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This comment is sponsored by Civica

Jeremy Hunt’s new single definition of success for healthcare providers may be seen by many as a welcome change of emphasis on patient care rather than finances, but seeing this develop into an accepted measure will be challenging in the extreme.

There is no doubt that the various high profile failures and inquiries have caused media attention on the NHS over the last couple of years – from occasional articles to daily content by almost every newspaper. With a £30bn deficit looming, and no clear strategy for tackling it, the righteous path will be a difficult one to follow.

The NHS, of course, is not alone in its financial woes. Local authorities continue to have their budgets severely constrained, which in turn limits the funding of the residential care homes and community care in the private sector.

Pressures on margins will now be exacerbated by the introduction of the living wage to the point where the private equity backers of the larger care providers are questioning the validity of their investment.

The simple fact is that whether the provision of care is in the hands of the public or private sectors, the money has to be available for the focus on the standard of care to be as high as the health secretary and the rest of us expect it to be.

Technology enables improvement

The answer, of course, cannot be to just pour more money into healthcare or, indeed, for local authorities to fund the owners of care homes. There remains plenty of scope for improving operational efficiency in both the NHS and the private sector, and technology has a significant role to play in enabling such improvement.

Resource optimisation software, mobile access to patient records, re-engineered care pathways, e-prescribing, multiagency working portals, solutions that enable the citizen to take more action themselves, and a wealth of other technology based approaches will be fundamental to meeting the Care Quailty Commission’s “good” or “outstanding” ratings.

However, it is unrealistic to expect organisations to develop and implement effective strategies for the deployment of technology without financial support and breathing room to do so.

Rushing into procurement of technology is counter-productive. Creating technology funds for organisations to bid for, then withdrawing or diverting the funds, detracts the attention of those responsible for making improvements.

The selection and deployment of technologies create the potential for profound and essential improvements in the NHS, but will only prove successful if the time and capital is provided for the development of robust business cases coupled with realistic procurement and implementation programmes.

David Roots is managing director of health and social care for Civica.