To mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS, the BBC asked the Health Foundation, Institute for Fiscal Studies, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust to look at five central issues currently facing the NHS. These issues are the relative strengths and weaknesses of the national health service, its funding, the state of social care, the public’s expectations of the NHS, and the potential of technology to change things in the future.

This is the fifth of five briefings intended to inform and encourage a national conversation about the past, present, and future of the NHS. The briefings are supported and informed by opinion polls that looked into these five issues that are currently relevant to the NHS.

Key points

  • Technological advances offer significant opportunities to improve healthcare but are not a silver bullet for the pressures facing the NHS. While there are really exciting developments in areas like genomics and precision medicine, we are a long way from being able to realise their full potential.
  • Technology has the potential to deliver significant savings for the NHS but the service does not have a strong track record in implementing it at scale and needs to get better at assessing the benefits, feasibility and challenges of implementing new technology.
  • Patients are embracing new technology and increasingly expect their care to be supported by it. For example, the majority of people say they would use video consultations to consult their GP about minor ailments and ongoing conditions.
  • New technology could fundamentally change the way that NHS staff work, requiring health professionals to work in new ways or even in entirely new roles. The impact of these changes should not be under-estimated.
  • The public trust NHS organisations to manage their data and there is strong support for using patient data for research and to improve care. While it is vital to balance the benefits of sharing data with concerns about security and confidentiality, these concerns should not be used as a barrier to progress.


Further reading