Technically, the NHS officially began on 5th July 1948. Prior to this, local governments were responsible for running their hospitals, which meant that many hospitals weren’t adequately equipped, struggled to cater for people's needs and were inaccessible for the poor. It also meant the quality of care varied hugely from place to place, with rural areas having very limited access to hospitals and healthcare.
However, with WWII, in 1938 an emergency medical service was created, paving the way for the NHS we know today. The ravages of war meant it was possible for a huge change of system in the UK, and NHS was officially founded in 1948 in Park Hospital Manchester, a society that was war-weary but resilient. Since its inception, we have a lot to thank the NHS for, from mass vaccinations to the world’s first IVF baby, keyhole surgery, antibiotics and even the contraceptive pill, to name but a few.
The NHS today
Today, the NHS is in the top six of the world’s biggest employers with a total of 1.5 million staff members. It’s also heralded as one of the best healthcare systems in the world and treats more than 1.4 million patients every 24 hours. At the end of its 70th year, polls showed that the NHS remains a treasured national institution that is a key part of the British national identity with unwavering public support.
However, whilst the British public remains fiercely loyal to the NHS, satisfaction levels have been falling in recent years due to issues such as long waiting times, patient experience, a lack of funding and the political environment. In fact, public satisfaction with the NHS overall was 57% in 2017 - a six percent drop from the previous year, whilst dissatisfaction increased to 29%, the highest level in a decade. In addition, satisfaction with GP services fell to 65%, the lowest level of satisfaction since the survey began in 1983.
Challenging times for the NHS
So, what’s going on? Well, it’s no secret that the NHS is struggling. With dwindling numbers of nurses, an ageing population, less funding, and dissatisfaction amongst junior doctors reaching unprecedented levels, the health service is facing its most difficult battle yet. In addition, expectations are still continuing to rise - in fact in just 70 years, it’s gone from being an institution set up to tackle disease to being the centre for pretty much everything. The NHS also started with a budget of around £15 billion, which is predicted to be around £123 billion in 2018/19, 12 times bigger than when it first started.
Technology and the NHS
So, what’s the solution? Well, technology is one possibility that is seen as an enabler. It allows people to work smarter, not harder, increasing employee satisfaction whilst at the same time improving patient outcomes and also saving money. From capturing data in real-time to analysing feedback and empowering patients, technology is delivering breakthroughs in healthcare provisioning and taking the pressure off the NHS by putting the patient in control. It’s transforming the industry, resulting in a new, patient-centric style of healthcare that’s delivering better decision making, more efficient care and improving the patient experience. It’s even simplifying lengthy admission and discharge processes whilst reducing the cost of care too. Find out more about technology in the healthcare industry in our blogs on the subject:
- Is technology the saviour of healthcare?
- The future of artificial intelligence in healthcare
- The arrival of 5G and what it means for healthcare
Medical market research and the future of the NHS
In addition to embracing technology, the NHS also needs to make evidence-based decisions that focus on understanding the needs of both patients and professionals. In order to do so, medical market research is absolutely critical so that the NHS can accurately identify actual needs and effective solutions, rather than being reactive to perceived needs. In a time where funding is short, it’s imperative that money is spent where it actually needs to be rather than wasted elsewhere - which means that during these tricky times, market research is more important than ever before to help save money and show the way to better patient delivery.
Using market research to understand people
Basically, in order to make the right decisions, the NHS needs to understand its people. As well as standard NHS concerns such as process management and back office issues, the NHS must also become patient-centric - especially as patients begin to take more control over their health via technology. That means understanding patients through patient-centric medical market research is absolutely vital in order to uncover underlying issues and concerns NHS staff might be unaware of so that improvements can be made to the overall service.
By using research to understand how patients think and feel, these findings can then be shared with stakeholders and decision makers to drive change. Such research can help the NHS to gain a better understanding of things such as the wider social and emotional context surrounding living with long term conditions, giving patients a chance to articulate key challenges and highlight potential solutions. The result? Improved decisions and better patient care. And that’s not all: because it enables decision makers to understand their patients, medical market research can also help the NHS better engage with them, increasing awareness and delivering targeted campaigns to help people take control of their health.
In conclusion, along with embracing technology, medical market research is an absolutely critical tool to help drive better care, improve processes, increase engagement and help the NHS better understand its people. By using a combination of medical market research to make evidence-based decisions and embracing technology, the NHS can start to really define what patients truly value and need, helping to reduce costs, prioritise resources, and deliver significantly better outcomes for all.