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Home » Supporting the NHS » As we celebrate 75 years of the NHS — what’s next?

Professor Sultan Mahmud

Director of Healthcare, BT

For 75 years, communications systems have been right behind the NHS, in the background, providing the networks that help hospitals to function, supporting new technology and underpinning the critical 999 service on which all our emergency services rely.

Communications services company BT is redefining its relationship with the NHS through innovative digital technology and connectivity while building on the long-term partnership. 

Greater NHS collaboration to enable smarter, safer and anticipatory care

“We are a communications company and our mission for the NHS is to connect clinicians, patients and machines to optimise care, release efficiencies and simplify manual processes. We have been doing this in many sectors with security and reliability, and we want to bring this expertise to bear in the NHS, explains Professor Sultan Mahmud, the company’s director of healthcare, following 20 years’ experience in the NHS.

The company is committed to technology-enabled integrated care delivery across primary, secondary and wider community care. From referral to treatment, to discharge and at all points where patients engage with the system, issues such as duplication of processes and lack of capacity can be addressed by technology. 

“It has been happening in pockets but we, as a national partner, can bring scale and impact and really move the dial on anticipatory, patient-centred care,” adds Professor Mahmud.

Care closer to home with virtual care

According to BT research of 197 staff at 136 different organisations within the NHS, 74% agree that technology helps to deliver better quality care, while the current standard of technology at work is a source of stress for 49%. In response to the findings, the telecoms company launched its virtual care programme alongside leaders in health technology.

Virtual care gives patients access to the healthcare services they need remotely, safely and conveniently — when it is clinically appropriate.

“Our virtual care programme provides the remote monitoring technology developed with leading industry partners, but also the change management expertise needed to make the technology effective for clinicians. When it is also underpinned by the latest cybersecurity and ubiquitous connectivity, it starts to make a huge difference.”

The NHS at 75 now needs further collaboration and support from expert technology partners, to ensure that staff and patients can enjoy it for another 75 years.

A space for co-creation ensuring safe technology

He insists that: “As we progressively move to new care models, underpinned by technology, they require the safe and efficient design of those systems so as not to create an additional burden in a live clinical setting.”

Therefore, BT has set up the Vanguard Programme where it works with healthcare organisations to monitor, evaluate and embed technology safely. It aims to identify NHS challenges and issues first, then develop innovative solutions together.

“A customer will say, ‘We have a particular problem around connectivity, virtual care, operational logistics or outdated IT,’ says Professor Mahmud.

“We bring proven technical expertise to help address those issues from real-time mobile data platforms, cybersecurity and other infrastructure and marry them with the practical knowledge of NHS clinicians and administrators to create solutions that actually work.”

Supporting staff to improve retention and care

For many, digitisation has been a challenge given wider pressures on healthcare teams and staff need support and training to keep pace with the change.

“If the work that an integrated care system is doing around technology-based care is effective, well-led and inclusive in approach, my experience is that NHS staff are motivated and excited to see changes to the ward, community or GP practice – it’s a retention factor.

The NHS remains a national treasure and developments such as virtual care and anticipatory data can have a huge positive impact. “The NHS at 75 now needs further collaboration and support from expert technology partners, to ensure that staff and patients can enjoy it for another 75 years.

“With technology to manage hospital capacity and patient data, retention of doctors, nurses and NHS management will hopefully improve. And, while connected communications can’t build more hospitals or train doctors and nurses, it can surely make the day-to-day experience of healthcare better for everyone.”

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