The UK healthcare technology sector responds to Labour's win

By Sophie Bullimore | Published: 11-Jul-2024

Leadership from System C, Lenus Health, CardMedic and Rapid Health discuss the implications of Labour's election into the UK government for the country's health tech industry

Speaking to health tech leaders across the UK, many are eager to see the real-world execution of the Labour manifesto.

For the tech industry, this revolves a lot around a fair allocation of contracts and then effective implementation of those digital systems.

"We need to think not only about the strategy, but about its practical implementation," said Dr Rachael Grimaldi, co-founder and Chief Executive of healthcare translation app CardMedic.

Health tech contracts

Speaking to the CEO of health information technology systems and service provider System C, Nick Wilson, he reaffirms that the state of health tech contract allocation for British suppliers is not where it should be.

"[The new government] must ensure that the NHS and wider public sector provide a level playing field for British suppliers, which currently is not the case," Wilson said.

[The new government] must ensure that the NHS and wider public sector provide a level playing field for British suppliers

This opinion echoes that of digital solutions expert Vertex UK's CEO, Chris Goldie, during the election campaign. Talking to Building Better Healthcare, Goldie said that the current framework contracts and tender stipulations make it hard for innovative start-ups to work with systems and trust on valuable cost-effective solutions.

The implications of what Wilson and Goldie are examining is that the best of the best are not being used at this time, and by adjusting the contract process, this can be addressed.

Grimaldi called the current journey to adopting new technology "an uphill battle". But she has hope that the new Labour government will "hit the ground running with developing its NHS innovation and adoption strategy as promised in their manifesto."

Getting the most out of your system

Labour has made it clear that supporting UK tech is a high priority for them. But even once a new tech has been selected, effective implementation is another hotly debated topic. 

The dream behind using data and tech to streamline the workings of the NHS patient journey is that it could save time, money, and lives without even touching resources. Turning the system from a reactive one to a proactive one.

However for the data to be of use, it needs to be within an organised, well-planned system. It needs a functioning data infrastructure. 

For example, Lenus Health is a company that delivers predictive AI for chronic conditions. This type of forward-thinking technology has the potential to prevent more costly interventions from diseases being left to worsen, by addressing them with cheaper interventions when they are less severe.

This type of forward-thinking technology has the potential to prevent more costly interventions from diseases being left to worsen

However, Director Jim McNair knows that these AI models need a few key puzzle pieces in order to deliver on this promise.

First, they need enough good-quality data to support validation and provide population risk stratification. Second is the operational mechanism to direct any insights from these systems into the hands of the frontline staff to enact.

If the data infrastructure is in place, these AI models could stand to save many man-hours of interventions from healthcare staff. This would help to address the NHS's workforce shortage without further hiring or outsourcing.

Tech to address workforce shortages

Facilities are not the only aspect of the system that is under strain in today's NHS. The workforce is also under immense pressure.

Rapid Health's Carmelo Insalaco believes like many that simply increasing the number of doctors is not the answer. The CEO of the digital solutions provider that specialises in primary care thinks that the priority should be on freeing up doctors’ time from unnecessary tasks and utilising technology to better manage and balance patient demand.

To enter or learn more about the Building Better Healthcare Awards, click here

Insalaco thinks that with smarter technology, GPs can help not only by streamlining the process, but also by building a better picture of the demand and capacity within the primary care system and its associates.

“We need to streamline and better integrate patient pathways between primary and secondary care to meet the needs of local areas. This integrated approach is crucial for reducing the strain on hospitals, which is partly caused by pressures in primary care," Insalaco suggests. "This will also help us identify the true gaps in the existing workforce.” 

Look to the success stories

The NHS is dealing with more than a few major challenges in 2024. Labour has promised to take action against the long waiting list and health inequalities over the next few years. Specific innovations have not been announced yet, and CardMedic's Grimaldi advises that existing success stories should be the blueprint for change on the national level.

System C's Wilson seems to think a lot of these success stories can be seen with existing systems. "Right now there is a golden opportunity to connect care with existing systems in order to deliver value faster and at far lower incremental costs compared to wholesale system replacements," he said. "I’d like to see Sir Keir Starmer (new UK Prime Minister), Wes Streeting (new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care) and the newly appointed Ministers for Health and Social Care (Karin Smyth and Stephen Kinnoc) place increased priority on connecting care using existing systems to avoid substantial delays and the huge disruption regularly associated with implementing new and sometimes unproven systems, often not designed and built with the UK’s complex and unique Health and Social Care ecosystem at their core. 

“There is an enormous opportunity here for the new Labour government to bring about real, meaningful change," Grimaldi said. "I only hope they seize this opportunity and build a truly modern NHS that works for patients.” 

You may also like