NHS Patients Will Be Monitored in Their Own Homes Under New Reforms

By Owen Evans
Owen Evans
Owen Evans
Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.
June 29, 2022 Updated: June 29, 2022

Five hundred thousand people will use digital tools to manage their long-term health conditions in their own homes, under the British government’s transformative programme.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the government announced that a major chunk of healthcare is to go online in England under a new digitisation plan. They say this is to clear backlogs caused by lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 as well as to deliver “more tailored care for patients.”

It is spending £2 billion to support electronic patient records to be in all NHS trusts and to get 500,000 people to use digital tools to manage long-term health conditions such as diabetes in their own homes and care homes.

It will do this by using medical devices, software, and artificial intelligence.

Challenges of 2048, Not of 1948

“We are now embarking on a transformative programme of reforms that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048, not of 1948, when it was first established, and also to make the vital changes that are so urgently required in social care,” wrote Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid, announcing the plan for digital health and social care.

He added that the NHS App will be at “the heart of these plans” so patients can use it to book hospital appointments, check test results, and register with a GP. Over 280,000 people already used remote monitoring at home and in care homes for long-term conditions in the last year, the government said.

The government’s ambition is for at least 75 percent of adults to be using the app by March 2024 and also have access to video consultations by then.

According to the plan, at-home monitoring, virtual wards, and outpatient video consultations “already brought more services into people’s homes over the course of the pandemic” and “through expansion and improvement of the NHS App and NHS.UK over the coming years, services will increasingly be in people’s pockets too.”

The plan noted the use of the NHS AI lab to determine the areas where artificial intelligence “has the most potential to be deployed and scaled.”

It said that this will be used for screening in crucial areas such as breast and lung cancer.

“We are also using robotic process automation (RPA) to emulate human actions and interact with digital systems. As we automate basic manual and repetitive tasks to save time for staff, we will ensure that the way and reason automated decisions are made are understood by humans,” said the plan.

The merger of medical data and artificial intelligence has raised ethical concerns.

In May, it was reported that the London law firm Mishcon de Reya announced that it was bringing forward a major class-action lawsuit against artificial intelligence (AI) firm DeepMind and its sister company Google over claims the two firms misused UK patients’ medical records while working with the Royal Free Hospital.

London-based DeepMind, one of the world’s most high-profile AI companies, was bought by Google in 2014 for $400 million.

In 2015, DeepMind teamed up with the Royal Free Hospital to provide instant warnings via mobile app of acute kidney injury.

Ben Lasserson, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, said: “This claim is particularly important as it should provide some much-needed clarity as to the proper parameters in which technology companies can be allowed to access and make use of private health information.”

Digital Services

The plan for digital health and social care claimed that digital services will always be part of a multi-channel offer that includes in person, phone, and online services and offer as well as incorporating non-digital options.

Dr. Timothy Ferris, the national director of transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said that “by harnessing the power of digital and data we can improve both how people access services and the way we provide care.

“Today’s plan for digital health and care sets out an ambitious vision for a future where the NHS puts more power and information at patients’ fingertips, and staff have the tools they need to deliver better and more joined-up services for those who need them.”

Owen Evans
Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.