Telecare Soapbox: The NHS revolution – 20 years on

In this Soapbox, Peter Kruger, Managing Director of Steinkrug, looks backwards at the pressures that have shaped the NHS and forwards to a different kind of future for caring.

Twenty years ago the NHS underwent something of a revolution: one that went far beyond anything the former health secretary Andrew Lansley envisaged. Technology played a key role in what was perhaps one of the largest business re-engineering projects ever undertaken. The impact of this change is still being felt; not only by patients but also by their relatives who find themselves playing the role of carers. This is opening up opportunities for a number of organisations ranging from mobile health vendors to high street pharmacies.

The following 4 minute video clip shows how most people perceived the NHS before the 1990s – complete with some old fashioned social attitudes:

[This video is no longer available on this site but may be findable via an internet search]

Only When I Laugh 1982. Watch the complete episode on YouTube

However, twenty years ago a wave of ageing baby boomers (the ones born during the 1920s, not those born in 1946) hit NHS hospital wards…

Many of them stayed there and the term ‘bed blocking’ entered the UK health industry lexicon. The NHS responded by changing its mode of operation – no longer a repair shop that prised saucepans off young boy’s heads and removed appendixes from contestants of bake bean eating competitions it instead became the manager of decline. It learned to cope with the growing demand for its services by managing this ‘decline’ remotely with the elderly patient remaining in their own home for as long as possible.

Technology, particularly ehealth and more recently mheath, has played key role in pushing the care of the patient out to the edge of the NHS network. This has implications for the patient’s family: once merely visitors turning up on the ward with flowers and a bunch of grapes but now, with the patient at home, playing the role of hospital orderly or, in some cases, nurse. It is often the daughter of the elderly patient who finds herself providing the bulk of this home based care and support. So was born what we call the ‘Alphadaughter.’

The professional nurse has the advantage of working within a team with the ability to emotionally detach themselves from the patient. The Alphadaughter is working on her own and must cope with the stress caused by watching a close relation’s health failing. It is not only care that has been pushed to the edge of the healthcare network but much of the compassion that goes with it.

There is an opportunity for a range of companies, both healthcare and non-healthcare focused, to help family carers. Retail pharmacists, for example, are well placed to provide the support Alphadaughters need as they care for ageing family members. Alphadaughters provide a large proportion of family care – estimated to be worth almost £40 billion per annum to the UK economy. Monetising even a small proportion of this care would provide a substantial boost to the pharmacy sector alone; increasing store footfall, enhancing the pharmacist’s online presence and providing a route into the mobile healthcare market. All that is needed is the appropriate business model…

Peter Kruger /

Steinkrug designed the Alphadaughters service for women in their fifties who are providing advice and care for their parents, husbands and adult children. From a supplier’s perspective it is a collection of online and mobile services designed to help companies gain access to an important demographic group.

Categories: Soapbox.