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Groundbreaking tech is at the heart of Leeds-based NHS Digital campaign

Cleveland Henry.
Cleveland Henry.

As the NHS prepares to mark its 70th birthday, Leeds-based NHS Digital is helping to highlight the ways in which technology and innovation have improved patient care over the past seven decades.

Plenty has changed in the field of healthcare since the NHS came kicking and screaming into the world on July 5, 1948.

Tech innovations have been at the heart of those changes, not only revolutionising how patients are treated but also transforming the way that records are kept and information communicated between medical professionals.

And now, to commemorate the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the health service, Leeds-based NHS Digital has teamed up with the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) to launch a campaign highlighting the trailblazing ideas that are continuing to make an important difference to today’s healthcare system.

A crowdsourcing drive is also under way on social media to get people’s views on the top innovations in health and social care over the last seven decades.

More than 100 different suggestions have been made so far by technology experts, clinicians and patients as well as celebrity medics such as Dr Christian Jessen and Dr Pixie Mckenna of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies programme.

Some of the 2,000 people that NHS Digital employs across four sites in Leeds have also been having their say.

Cleveland Henry, the organisation’s programme director for digital collaboration, innovations and digital futures, opted for smart wearables as an example of how tech is breaking new ground to useful effect.

He said: “They really excite me because they are devices which enable people to take control of their own health and well-being.

“They can also allow health professionals to monitor people’s conditions remotely and use that data to be predictive and proactive in bringing about better outcomes for patients.” Innovations that have been showcased by NHS Digital and the AHSN during the run-up to July 5 include a test introduced by a consultant at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that helps GPs make the difficult distinction between irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

A second idea getting a well-deserved moment in the spotlight is a review template developed at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust which helps improve the quality of health checks for people with a serious mental illness who are also at risk of dying prematurely due to preventable physical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular problems.

NHS Digital showed its own innovation credentials with the introduction in Leeds last year of a pilot of the 111 online medical advice service.

Designed to provide users with a fast, convenient alternative to making a phone call, the service is now up-and-running throughout Yorkshire and the Humber and will soon be available right across England.

n NHS Digital is still collecting ideas for the top innovations in health and care from the last 70 years. To get involved, tweet @NHSDigital using #NHS70innovations.