Innovation: the golden thread empowering the NHS for a bright future

This year marks a significant milestone for the NHS as it celebrates its 75th Anniversary. Over the past seven decades, the NHS has witnessed ground-breaking advancements that have transformed healthcare.

Innovation has been the golden thread driving the NHS forward. From technological breakthroughs to novel approaches in patient care, the NHS’s commitment to innovation holds the key to ensuring its sustainability for the next 75 years.

From its inception in 1948, the NHS spearheaded revolutionary advances such as the first CT scanner in the 1970s, which revolutionised diagnostic imaging and the introduction of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners in the 1980s, offering a non-invasive method to examine the human body in unprecedented detail.

It played a pivotal role in Francis Crick and James Watson’s ground-breaking work on the structure of DNA laying the foundation for modern genetics and personalised medicine. The introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in 2008 has significantly reduced cervical cancer cases.

As the NHS rose to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, we again saw the power of innovation and technology which allowed patients to get help remotely, minimising the risk of infection spread. Virtual triage systems assessed patient needs, enabling faster access. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms predicted disease trends, aiding decision making.

NHS@75 is a moment to look back and be grateful for the millions of citizens who have given their careers to building and sustaining the NHS, but it is also an opportunity to look ahead to the next 75 years.

Innovation will be essential in overcoming the challenges it faces, with an aging population, increasing demand for healthcare, and constrained resources, the NHS must embrace innovative solutions to deliver high quality care sustainably. Innovations such as wearable devices, remote monitoring and diagnostic technologies have the potential to revolutionise disease management, giving the workforce more time for hands on patient care.

Innovations in AI, genomics and personalised medicine, robotics, telemedicine and remote monitoring have the potential to reshape healthcare delivery, improve patient outcomes and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the NHS.

As members of the NHS Assembly – the advisory group that a wide group of stakeholders together in advising the NHS England’s leadership – we are helping to draw together insights on the NHS today, and its future opportunities and challenges. This NHS@75 work will deliver a short public report ahead of the 75th Birthday. We are delighted that many are making their voices heard by using our conversation guide and online feedback form, available until 23.59 on Friday 26 May.

By continuing to prioritise innovation, the NHS can overcome the challenges of the future, ensuring sustainable, accessible and patient centred care for the next 75 years and beyond. Embracing new technologies, nurturing collaboration, and fostering a culture of innovation will be key to realising this vision, propelling the NHS towards a brighter and healthier future.

Richard Stubbs is Chief Executive of the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and Vice-Chair of the AHSN Network; he has been an NHS Assembly member since March 2019.

Amy Lochtie has been an NHS Assembly member since January 2019 and is West Yorkshire Innovation Hub Director for the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network and West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board.