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Report aims to boost post-pandemic NHS


A new report has suggested a plan for how the NHS might provide a more fair and efficient health and social care service after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The LSE-Lancet Commission, which involved University of Edinburgh researchers, evaluated how Covid-19 has affected the different NHS models of care in the UK’s four nations and highlighted best practice.

The Commission made seven recommendations for the health service in areas such as workforce, disease prevention and diagnosis, digital health, and better integration of public health and social care.

Scotland’s NHS, as elsewhere, faces a number of challenges after the pandemic, the report said. Health inequalities remain a challenge in Scotland.

The report highlighted efforts to address underlying health inequalities and improve health, including free school meals, the further integration of health and social care, and minimum alcohol pricing.

Experts noted that Scotland has taken a lead in integrating health and social care, but said more work was needed.

More resource was required, they added, particularly to learn from the challenges faced by care homes during the pandemic in Scotland and elsewhere.

The report also recommended the creation of a long-term workforce strategy to ensure the best care is delivered, to make the most of the skillset of care sector staff and to prioritise their wellbeing.

Research should play a key role in understanding how conditions such as frailty and multimorbidity are changing the needs of the care community, the report said.

It recommended a multidisciplinary approach involving clinicians, engineers, computer scientists and others to support the elderly to live independently in the community for as long as possible.

Harnessing the power of health data will be an important aspect to many of these studies, the Commission said. The integrated nature of the NHS puts it in a unique position to carry out this kind of research.

The Commission, formed in 2017, brings together 33 leading experts in research, policy, management, and clinical practice from the UK’s four home nations.

The report is published alongside four health policy papers published in The Lancet and The Lancet Digital Health, and an editorial from The Lancet.

Professor Moira Whyte, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh said: ” Health inequalities remain a challenge in Scotland, with the COVID-19 pandemic providing a stark example of the impact on disadvantaged communities. There have undoubtedly been some positive developments in addressing these inequalities, but we need to do more to tackle the underlying causes that drive them if Scotland is to fulfil its potential to become a healthier society.”

Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of Usher Institute and Dean of Data at the University of Edinburgh added: ” We need to use the UK’s outstanding health data assets to improve all aspects of healthcare planning, prioritisation, and personalisation of care. We have, after much effort, made important progress in this respect in relation to the battle against Covid-19, which is now reaping dividends for us all. It is vital that these same data infrastructures and data assets are now also deployed to improve patient outcomes from other conditions such as cancer, heart disease and asthma.”