Will Matt Hancock be a refreshing change for NHS? Or another promise unfulfilled? (updated)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/matt-in-a-binder.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Matt In A Binder? With the sudden departure of Jeremy Hunt from the Department of Health and Social Care in the Cabinet’s ‘change partners and dance’, the new Secretary of State Matt Hancock comes over from heading Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A couple of weeks in, it can be determined that he is a big advocate of technology and looking forward, not back (which Mr. Hunt spent a great deal of time doing):

Technology has a proven ability to radically change the world for the better – be it in finance, in education and in transport. But nowhere does technology have greater potential to improve lives than in healthcare. (Statement on Gov.UK/Health Service Journal 12 July )

And he glows again about increasing the use of apps within the NHS, though Digital Health goes a little overboard in calling the Rt Hon Mr. Hancock ‘app-happy’ even though he’s built his own this year so that his West Suffolk constituents can keep track of his activities. 

In his maiden speech, Mr. Hancock promoted a drive to replace pagers with smartphone apps as part of a £487 million funding package and connecting Amazon Echo with the NHS Choices website. It was overshadowed by a seeming walking back of the 95 percent four-hour A&E treatment target. Telegraph

Much of the criticism comes from those who see his appointment as yet another step in the privatization and regional devolution of the NHS due to campaign donations from the chair of pro-market group the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). However, Mr. Hunt faced the realization that NHS trusts are $1.2bn in debt and sought workarounds such as adoption of an ACO-type model (which in the US has a strong element of public incentive) and increased use of private health insurance to cost-shift. He wasn’t a technophobe, having inked a deal with the UK Space Agency to repurpose space tech for health tech and funding innovators in this conversion up to £4 million–which can be said to be ‘out there’.

Mr. Hancock also announced this week the £37.5 million funding of three and five ‘Digital Innovation Hubs’ over the next three years. These will connect regional healthcare data with genetic and biomedical information for R&D purposes.

Will he last? Will there be positive changed fueled by technology? Will the May Government last? Only time will tell.

What are your thoughts? (If you’d like to post anonymously, write Editor Donna in confidence)

Here’s select opinion from across the spectrum:

Don’t be fooled, Matt Hancock will be no better for the NHS than Jeremy Hunt was (The Independent)

New health secretary Matt Hancock received £32,000 in donations from chair of think tank that wants NHS ‘abolished’ (The Independent)

Roy Lilley’s always tart take on things NHS extends to the new Secretary dubbed ‘No18’. A deft wielding of Occam’s Razor and a saber on reflexive phraseology such as ‘driving culture change’ (it can be cultivated not driven–this Editor agrees but the tone and structure need to be set from the top), dealing with suppliers, and the danger of creating an electronic Tower of Babel due to lack of interoperability. (Does this resonate in the US? You bet!) (See NHSManagers.net if the link does not work.)

Margaret McCartney: Health technology and the modern inverse care law (BMJ) — to paraphrase, that the greatest need for healthcare is by those least likely to have the right care at the right time available. She points to Babylon Health, which counts Mr. Hancock as a member, as not only unproven, but also not needed by those able to afford other options. (But didn’t we know that already?)

Updated 15 May: 20% of NHS organizations hit by WannaCry, spread halted, hackers hunted

Updated 15 May: According to the Independent, 1 of 5 or 20 percent of NHS trusts, or ‘dozens’, have been hit by the WannaCry malware, with six still down 24 hours later. NHS is not referring to numbers, but here is their updated bulletin and if you are an NHS organization, yesterday’s guidance is a mandatory read. If you have been following this, over the weekend a British specialist known by his/her handle MalwareTech, tweeting as @malwaretechblog, registered a nonsensical domain name which he found was the stop button for the malware as designed into the program, with the help of Proofpoint’s Darien Huss.

It looks as if the Pac-Man march is over. Over the weekend, a British specialist known as MalwareTech, tweeting as @malwaretechblog, registered a nonsensical domain name which he found was the stop button for the malware, with the help of Proofpoint’s Darien Huss. It was a kill switch designed into the program. The Guardian tagged as MalwareTech a “22-year-old from southwest England who works for Kryptos logic, an LA-based threat intelligence company.”

Political fallout: The Home Secretary Amber Rudd is being scored for an apparent cluelessness and ‘wild complacency’ over cybersecurity. There are no reported statements from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. From the Independent: “Patrick French, a consultant physician and chairman of the Holborn and St Pancras Constituency Labour Party in London, tweeted: “Amber Rudd is wildly complacent and there’s silence from Jeremy Hunt. Perhaps an NHS with no money can’t prioritise cyber security!” Pass the Panadol!

Previously: NHS Digital on its website reported (12 May) that 16 NHS organizations have been hacked and attacked by ransomware. Preliminary investigation indicates that it is Wanna Decryptor a/k/a WannaCry. In its statement, ‘NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and ensure patient safety is protected.’ Healthcare IT News

According to cybersecurity site Krebs on Security, (more…)

Add 3 years to ‘Paperless 2020’: Robert Wachter at The King’s Fund (UK)

The King’s Fund has helpfully published a report on the (duelling?) presentations at last week’s NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo by Robert Wachter, MD, the ‘digital doctor’ (our review of excerpts from his 2015 book here), and Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt on the feasibility of paperless health records. There is plenty of funding (£4.2 billion) for NHS.UK announced earlier this year, but plans are still sketchy. The adoption of the GOV.UK Verify service used in other parts of the UK government is intended to “standardise the process to activate patient accounts without the need for them to visit a GP surgery in person”. NHS is having another crack at an app library, and there was a bit of surprise, according to the writer, that Secretary Hunt said that fitness data will be integrated into NHS patient records. But Dr Wachter cautions that he’s walking back the 2020 date he advocated for full paperless records to 2023. He recognized that implementation in all but the most advanced hospitals (a handful) isn’t feasible. There are too many competing priorities and too little funding (and, this Editor would add, too many HIT threats like hacking and ransomware). Only the most “digitally-sophisticated hospitals” would be invited to be ‘global exemplars’ in exchange for matched funding, in his view. The King’s Fund will be publishing more about this later in September, presumably as a prelude to their upcoming Designing digital services around users’ needs on 6 Oct.  Wachter watch Hat tip to Reader Suzanne Woodman

NHS Expo & Testbeds – another view

This year this editor went to NHS Expo in Manchester primarily to advise a US company, Humetrix, over the two day period, so got to see proceedings through a different lens.

Overall the event seemed to be much better attended than last year, in spite of the proximity to the Bank Holiday. Whereas last year the Future Care Zone was virtually deserted by both exhibitors and visitors, this year’s New Care Models Zone was buzzing. The Digital Zone was a particular attraction with some excellent talks, and the opportunity to meet many key people working in this area.

On the stage, the politicians painted their visions and senior health & care directors explained how these were to become a reality. This week’s NHS Networks blog, a perennial favourite of this editor, commenting on comparative performances, described Tim Kelsey as “more digital even than Mr Hunt but less binary”(reminiscent of Iain Banks’ description of lawyer LL Blawke in The Crow Road as “pencil-thin and nearly as leaden”). Of particular concern to this editor’s interests was the response to Jeremy Hunt’s commitment to enabling everyone to be able to access their detailed medical record in 2016, (more…)