On 5th July 1948, 70 years ago today, the National Health Service was founded and launched by minister of health Aneurin Bevan, with the government taking over responsibility for all medical services.
The NHS was conceived during World War 2 in the smoke-filled backrooms of the local Labour Party office born in Tredegar five years earlier by Aneurin Bevan, borne out of his long-held belief that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth.
After Labour’s landslide victory in the 1945 general election, Aneurin Bevan was appointed minister of health and finally given the chance to put his idea into practice. Also during WW2, codebreakers Tommy Flowers and Alan Turing were building digital technology to decode enemy messages. Turing was a brilliant mathematician and visionary, who had the genius to see that high-speed computation could crack the codes. His work laid the groundwork for modern computing and artificial intelligence.
Flowers’ contributions to breaking the German Enigma code were immense. He led the team that built the Colossus — the first electronic programmable computer to break the complex encoded communiques between the German High Command and its forces in the field.
Digital technology was born.
But why mention these two individuals and their achievements in this instance and why do it now? Because it is time we started connecting the dots, and as Steve Jobs would say, they can only be connected by looking backwards. To know where we are headed, we must know our history.
And 75 years later we still haven’t connected the dots; we still haven’t got these two world-changing concepts past the hand-holding stage.
Currently, there is a digital revolution happening in every sector, and healthcare should be no different.
Public and private sector can no longer afford to work independently. Indeed, as Prof. Trevor Jones said at the launch of the Life Sciences Hub Wales’ new strategy on Monday:
“We can no longer afford to compete. Industry, NHS and academia must come together in collaborations and consortiums if we are to find solutions to some of the major healthcare challenges we are facing.”
On the 70th birthday of the NHS, the repurposed Life Sciences Hub Wales announced that its focus is now more inclusive as it aims to accelerate implementation of innovation into health and care services, and it seeks opportunities to support collaboration across the life sciences sector, working directly with the NHS, business and academia.
But there’s something else, too.
At Bond Digital Health we strongly believe in patient self-management and that this represents the way forward for the NHS. With the rising cost of healthcare and with GP surgeries getting busier by the day, we need to move past the idea that the NHS should take total responsibility and into patient self-management; responsibility lies with the patient now as much as it does with the health care professional.
Ian is suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and is an expert patient on the British Lung Foundation’s Patient Review Committee. He wanted to confront his condition after being diagnosed, and began tracking his symptoms, aggregating evidence and data and identifying danger points.
Ian became an advocate of self-management, and together with co-founder and digital expert Dave Taylor, developed a digital platform that has enabled him to monitor his own disease and obtain evidence-led care from his GP and specialists.
To put things into perspective, lung disease currently costs the UK £11bn every year in direct costs alone — just the tip of the iceberg — and is the third largest killer in the world. Lung disease patients take up the highest amount of GP time.
Reducing the number of visits per year by one through digitally supported self-management could free up 248 years of GP time to be used elsewhere. And this is COPD, just one chronic disease of many that could be supported in this way.
We also need to look more seriously at consortium working as a way forward.
No business can do it alone, which is why Bond is leading consortiums of expert partners in commerce and academia to tackle worldwide issues in chronic disease, animal health, and agri-food. This gives us the leverage of scale we can bring to bear on international problems.
What’s impressive about the digital technology Bond has developed is that it can be applied to virtually any disease or condition, not only in the human health domain but in veterinary diagnostics and agriculture, potentially solving issues on a world-wide scale.
We felt privileged that our business was showcased at the Hub relaunch event this week as a representative of the SMEs based at the Hub. Our dynamic growth has been supported and encouraged by the collaborative ethos and the expert advice we have been given. We enjoyed seeing our success shared with the leaders of NHS Wales, Welsh Government and the life science community, and we intend to continue to innovate and grow for the benefit of patients in Wales.
Happy birthday NHS!
To read more about Bond’s collaborations and stories, please visit our blog or get in touch here.
A version of this was published in MedTech Engine.