NHS should consider robots to plug staffing gaps, says Steve Barclay

He urged the health service to do more to embrace new ways of working, in order to ensure the most efficient ways of working. 

“Currently, I believe the NHS scores the risk of innovation too high when compared to the risk of the status quo,” he said, saying the sum “needs to be recalibrated”.

“Take for example, the risks around introducing machine learning on its own, it may carry some risk, but this should be judged against the risk of the status quo where there may be long delays due to staff shortages.”

The Health Secretary also said the NHS needed to be far more transparent about the scale of the challenges clearing record backlogs – and more open to new ways to do so. 

“Only when we’re transparent about the challenges we face will we empower a greater patient choice particularly in the context of vested interests, which are inevitable in a budget of £182 billion,” he said. 

Impact of pandemic

Mr Barclay said the Government also needed to be open about the impact the pandemic has had on fuelling deaths from other causes. 

In particular, he highlighted a rise in heart problems among those in middle age which is linked to delays getting to see a GP and being prescribed statins, as well as long waits for ambulances.

The British Heart Foundation has warned of an extra 50,000 deaths linked to such causes. 

The Health Secretary said: “We must also be transparent, coming out of Covid, around excess deaths. For example, we know from the data that there are more 50 to 64-year-olds with cardiovascular issues. It’s the result of delays in that age group seeing the GP because of the pandemic, and in some cases not getting statins for hypertensives in time, which when coupled with delays to ambulance times we see this reflected in the excess death numbers.” 

“In time, we may see a similar challenge in the cancer data,” he said. 

Earlier this month, a Telegraph analysis highlighted recent trends in such data, with a rise in deaths from cancer in recent weeks. 

A breakdown of causes of death from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows nearly 900 more deaths in people with cancer than would be expected between September and November.

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