Comment Blog 29 November, 2023

Looking to 2033: A brighter future for UK health and care

Dr Axel Heitmueller
Director, Discover-Now and Managing Director, Imperial College Health Partners

The year is 2033: 

John is concerned about a skin lesion on his right arm and photos it via the NHS app. A central online dermatology screening service harnesses AI to provide a rapid and accurate diagnosis. The photo is assessed, and it turns out to be a harmless infection treatable with anti-fungal cream. John is issued with a digital prescription that he can immediately collect from any pharmacy, or he can choose to have it delivered direct to his home for a small fee.  

Jada has a family history of breast cancer. She had routine genomic screening aged 20 and at 40; fortunately, she does not have any of the known genetic risk factors. However, she regularly receives tailored insights, best practice screening and information on the latest care options via the NHS app. 

Jasmine, 34, is long-term unemployed due to a mental health condition. In the past, she would frequently attend A&E. However, her council housing provider is running a visiting service to support healthy living. This provides Jasmine with support at home, and she is now on a programme jointly run by the NHS and the employment service to reintroduce her to regular work.  

Happy 85th birthday National Health Service! 

There is much to celebrate. Beveridge and Bevan would be proud of how far we’ve come. It has not been easy to keep up with ever-growing demands, reorganisations, and rapid scientific and technological progress. But the NHS has proven it can evolve without compromising its core principles. 

Success over the past decade has been built upon a commitment to put population health at the heart of all plans to unlock economic growth and sustained government support for reform.  Specifically, reform has focussed on four pillars: 

  • Personalisation – services are now truly tailored to individual needs and context. 
  • Democratisation – AI has helped level the playing field between care professionals and patients, services are increasingly devolved, and Personal Health Accounts allow everyone to access healthcare services, whenever and wherever they need them. 
  • Accountability – public transparency of outcomes has created a continuous learning and improvement cycle amongst providers, the learnt helplessness and command-and-control culture of the past have all but disappeared. 
  • Sustainability – we have rebalanced investment from sickness care to prevention, enabling people to live healthier lives and reducing demands on frontline NHS services. 

These changes required courage. But they have been worth it. Our NHS is now built on strong and sustainable foundations and our population is becoming healthier, providing the fuel for rapid and sustained economic growth.  

Here’s to the next 85 years!