Chair, Medical Technology Group
Growing pressure from chronic conditions and the impact of COVID-19 means the NHS must look towards medical technology to create a more sustainable future.
Around half of people aged 65 and over in England have at least two chronic conditions1 and, with the number of those 85 and older set to double by 2025, analysts predict a burgeoning older population with complex multi-comorbidities2.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this challenge, presenting the problem of treating millions of patients waiting for non-urgent care because of delays. The crisis has accelerated the adoption of innovative medical technologies – from diagnostic devices to artificial intelligence systems for detecting cancer; that pioneering spirit now needs to be harnessed to stimulate the uptake of technology that improves patient outcomes and increases healthcare efficiency.
Minimal invasion – maximum benefit
First pioneered by interventional radiologists, minimally invasive procedures and diagnostics such as endoscopy, microsurgery, keyhole surgery, robotics and medical imaging can now be used to treat a plethora of conditions, from heart and orthopaedic surgery to organ transplants.
By limiting overnight stays and reducing follow-up care, minimally invasive procedures also bring down costs.
These techniques offer a host of benefits. Unlike traditional surgery, they require small incisions, which heal quicker, and local – rather than general – anaesthetic. They are less painful for the patient, shorten recovery time and lower the risk of infection.
Minimally invasive procedures are also a more efficient way of treating patients, increasing accuracy, while reducing the risk of complications such as haemorrhaging. Meanwhile, robotics reduce variation in technique and improve clinical outcomes. By limiting overnight stays and reducing follow-up care, minimally invasive procedures also bring down costs.
Working towards a more efficient health service
The Government recognises the need to invest in managing long-term healthcare demand and to address the COVID-19 backlog. However, compared to other Western European countries, the NHS lags in terms of efficiency. Spain, for example, has the healthiest population in the world3, yet spends half the UK budget per capita on healthcare; the UK by contrast ranks 19th in the healthiest population index4.
In its 2018 NHS spending review, the Government allocated just 5% of the additional budget to medical technology despite solutions, such as minimally invasive procedures, having the potential to treat more patients in less time and improve outcomes.
Creating a sustainable health service requires not just additional investment, but a change in mindset, culture and practice.
 Projections of multi-morbidity in the older population in England to 2035: estimates from the Population Ageing and Care Simulation (PACSim) model, Andrew Kingston, Louise Robinson, Heather Booth, Martin Knapp, Carol Jagger, for the MODEM project, May 2018,
 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index 2019
 Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker