NHS will go ‘the way of Woolworths’ unless it adopts new tech to become more efficient, warns Labour’s health spokesman Wes Streeting

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The NHS is at risk of going ‘the way of Woolworths’ if it fails to adopt new technology that will make it more efficient, Wes Streeting has warned.

Labour’s shadow health secretary said the service must modernise as there is ‘no scope’ for spending to go much higher and ‘no future’ if it continues to rely on ‘outdated’ and ‘costly’ ways of working.

He likened the NHS to Woolies, which he described as a ‘much-loved national institution’ but one that ‘failed to change with the times and was left behind’.

The High Street retailer closed in 2009, with the loss of more than 800 stores, after struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crash.

Mr Streeting said the Government has been too ‘timid’ when it comes to implementing the changes that are necessary for the NHS to thrive and insisted he would go further.

Speaking at the WIRED Health event in London this afternoon, Labour’s shadow health spokesman Wes Streeting said the Conservatives had been too timid and Labour would go further. He said this would include sharing all GP patient records across the health service so people could get better joined up care

He vowed to face down the ‘vested interests’ of those who promote the status quo and take-on the ‘scaremongering’ of the ‘tinfoil hat brigade’ on social media, which he claimed are having undue influence on NHS policy.

The MP for Ilford North said he would force GPs to share patients’ medical records across the health service so people can benefit from better joined up care.

This would also lead to the development of new treatments, better sharing of preventative health advice and an opportunity to join more clinical trials, he added.

Current plans for the NHS ‘federated data platform’ only include the sharing of hospital data – and even this has been met with outrage from privacy campaigners.

Speaking at the WIRED Health event in London this afternoon, Mr Streeting said: ‘Unleashing the power of technology is not abstract.

‘This is about how many patients the NHS can treat, and how long they have to wait.

‘It is also about our experience as patients. How we’re kept informed and how our time is respected.

‘An estimated 13.5million hours of doctors’ time is wasted every year due to inefficient IT.

‘Fixing that would be the equivalent of 8,000 new doctors joining the NHS. That’s the difference between the huge staff shortages in the NHS and filling almost every vacancy for a doctor.

‘With our country’s population ageing, the health of the public worsening, and chronic disease rising – this is also about the sustainability of the NHS: Whether it can survive the coming decade.

Mr Streeting said: 'There is no future for the NHS that involves continuing with an outdated, inefficient, and costly way of working, while demands on the service rise, and the costs pile up. 'The NHS is at a fork in the road. Another five years of the Conservatives, and it could go the way of Woolworths: A much-loved national institution which failed to change with the times and was left behind'. Pictured, Woolworths in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 2000

Mr Streeting said: ‘There is no future for the NHS that involves continuing with an outdated, inefficient, and costly way of working, while demands on the service rise, and the costs pile up. ‘The NHS is at a fork in the road. Another five years of the Conservatives, and it could go the way of Woolworths: A much-loved national institution which failed to change with the times and was left behind’. Pictured, Woolworths in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 2000

‘The budget for health was 42 per cent of departmental spending this year. Because the Conservatives crashed the economy, there isn’t scope for it to go much higher.

‘So, there is no future for the NHS that involves continuing with an outdated, inefficient, and costly way of working, while demands on the service rise, and the costs pile up.’

He added: ‘The NHS is at a fork in the road. Another five years of the Conservatives, and it could go the way of Woolworths: A much-loved national institution which failed to change with the times and was left behind.

‘That is the path it is on today. But it’s not inevitable. The NHS can change and the staff working in it are crying out for change.’

His comments come a fortnight after health secretary Victoria Atkins said the NHS needs an ‘M&S moment’.

She revealed the Department of Health and Social Care had hired former M&S chief executive Steve Rowe as its NHS productivity tsar after crediting him with taking the store ‘out of the doldrums’.

Ms Atkins said the ‘stalwart’ turned around its fortunes by ’embracing modernity’ and demanded the health service does the same.

She added: ‘We are standing on the cusp of a medical revolution, where technology, personalised therapies and better data can transform outcomes for a generation who are more health conscious than any that came before them.

‘The NHS must seize this opportunity and look to the future, not restrict ourselves to what has always been done. In fact, it needs to have – to borrow a phrase – an M&S moment.’

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