70 years of NHS

Malcolm Grant | Updated on: Feb 05, 2018

The UK and India look at ways of collaborating on improving healthcare

On 5 July this year, the UK National Health Service (NHS) will be celebrating its 70th birthday. Its founder, Aneurin Bevan, described it as the “single greatest experiment in social service that the world has ever seen undertaken”. It is an experiment which has stood the test of time with remarkable success, and its founding principles — healthcare available to all, based on clinical need rather than ability to pay —remain firmly in place.

In February we are bringing our vast experience in medical excellence to India which coincidentally is celebrating its 70 years of independence. India’s healthcare sector, of course, has its own rich history of change. In 1946, the legislation establishing the NHS was passed, whilst in India the Bhore Committee was setting out the first national plan for healthcare in India; one which spawned the establishment of Primary Health Centres, created the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, and reformed the country’s system of postgraduate medical education.

Convergence summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Health Policy is arguably the most ambitious reform programme since Bhore’s, and its success or failure — much like the NHS’s — will be inextricably bound up in the health system’s ability to innovate. With this spirit of innovation at the fore, Mumbai is hosting the first-ever India-UK Createch Summit on February 6, 2018. The conference will celebrate and explore the convergence of creativity and technology focusing on how technology-driven innovation is enabling creative output.

It brings together delegates from not only healthcare but also film, music, industrial design, gaming and immersive tech. As a part of the summit, we are bringing 12 innovative UK companies and 3 NHS Trusts to Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Our delegation includes OxSight, a University of Oxford venture that uses the latest smart glasses to improve sight for blind and partially sighted people. These can enhance vision for many in India affected by conditions like glaucoma, diabetes and retinitis pigmentosa as well as some other degenerative eye diseases. Another UK company Vernacare’s single-use system for patient toileting and cleansing improves life for both patients and healthcare professionals and helps healthcare organisations run more smoothly and efficiently day after day.

Collaboration ideas

In my frequent trips to India I have already seen numerous examples of impressive collaboration between our health systems. In the last two years the Indo-UK Institute of Healthcare has begun work on its first hospitals in Nagpur and Amaravati where they plan to build world-class medi-cities along with nine other cities across India. Health Education England has begun an ambitious new programme to train Indian nurses and doctors in the NHS who will then return to India with enhanced skills. The UK’s Global Health Alliance is already doing working in rural India and has launched in India a new fellowship in aviation medicine and a diploma in emergency medicine for nurses.

At the India-UK Createch Summit we will bring together British experts and companies along with leading Indian hospital owners and medical experts to discuss how the two countries can collaborate to transform the future of healthcare in India.

Both our countries are looking for ways to use telemedicine to help support patients without high cost face-to-face clinical interactions. In India, this has the potential to transform the way healthcare is delivered to the two-thirds of the population living in rural areas. 2017 was a crucial year for telemedicine in the NHS, with patients being offered routine GP appointments via a mobile phone app for the first time and the launch of an online version of our 111 telephone advice service.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been another area where the NHS has made important progress, with collaborations with industry; the NHS is currently testing the deployment of AI for diagnosis of breast cancer, eye disease and kidney disease. India similarly has been trialling the use of AI to diagnose cervical cancers and improve blood test accuracy.

Opportunities galore

These examples are, of course, just a small number of the many opportunities that exist. Whether it be the use of electronic patient records, wearables and self-management apps, or the accelerating progress in 3D printing, predictive analytics and personalised medicine, there is little doubt that both of our health systems will transform radically over the next decade. We can together embark on this transformative journey, learning from each other’s experiences and innovations.

When the Prime Minister launched the National Health Policy last year, he described it as “a historic moment in our endeavour to create a healthy India where everyone has access to quality healthcare”. As Britain celebrates its own historic landmark, I look forward to India-UK collaboration on healthcare being stronger than ever.

The writer is the chairman of NHS England

Published on February 05, 2018

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