Open letter to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Dear Mr. Hancock,
This bemused old age pensioner understands you want to be known as “the Minister who made the NHS go digital”. But, has it escaped your notice that this technology often goes wrong? And older people aren’t so forgiving when it wastes our time.
You were obviously keen to bring us into the digital age, bouncing into your first Press Conference extolling the virtues of Babylon as the ‘new’ way of consulting our GP. But no mention of what it cost. That’s important when you are on a Pension.
You are keen to get us all using Smartphones – but has anyone worked out when the cost comes out of your Pension, rather than the company expense account?
And you want to get us all ‘online’ – but sometimes that doesn’t work. Can you look at your Utopian vision from our perspective? There are a lot of us ‘over 60s’, so perhaps it’s worth listening?.
You gave this company a massive plug in front of TV cameras and the media, so one wondered what was the pay-off?
Currently, when I visit my GP it’s free. Babylon website is coy about cost, but eventually, I find I have to pay £49 for a consultation. And its website says “Babylon’s AI services provide health information only, and do not provide a diagnosis. ……. “
If we need to consult a doctor face-to-face, what happens then? And what is cost as it seems we would be sent to a Babylon doctor?
Our worries are echoed by Helen Salisbury, writing in the British Medical Journal. “Babylon originally stated that its online service, GP at Hand, was not suitable for patients with complex physical or mental health problems. By using enticing—but misleading—advertising, 1 Babylon has targeted young, fit, and tech-savvy patients, many of whom realise only later that, in signing up, they de-register from their previous general practice. These traditional, geographically based practices then lose the capitation payments for these patients and may be pushed towards a financial cliff edge, putting the care of other patients at risk“.
Not very reassuring, as most elderly patients have complex needs.
Nigel Praities, editor of Pulse, has written about Babylon, saying “any conclusion can be drawn from this sorry mess, it is that we need much greater support for the publicly funded basis of general practice to preserve equity of access and protect vulnerable patients. As overworked practices struggle, patients wait longer for GP appointments and public dissatisfaction grows, private services will seize their chance and this kind of two-tier service will only get more common”.
Elderly patients understand finance! But if we are going to have to pay for accessing our GP, please be honest.
2. email reports
Once, you would get a paper prescription during an appointment.
Now, it is emailed to us – and this cartoon describes how I felt when I discovered< thanks to the new Digital reports, that I couldn’t access the prescription I needed.
I had had a productive consultation with a consultant about an on-going problem. The next day an email message arrived, with an attachment for me to open, containing a report and a prescription.
I was unable to open this; apparently the NHS contracted Egress to set this up; they ignored the fact that many of us use Chrome books (getting increasingly popular), and forgot to tell the hospital or me that I needed to register to be able to read it!
I messaged the official website of NHS Digital to find out what was going on. Email bounced back saying
“Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups: NHS Digital Enquiries (NHS DIGITAL) (email@example.com) The recipient’s mailbox is full and can’t accept messages now. Please try resending your message later, or contact the recipient directly”.
Mr. Hancock, I’d like to contact you directly, so please give me your email, so I can take this advice from NHS Digital. And tell you that it took me 8 (yes, EIGHT) days to get my prescription. I really don’t think much of your digital revolution.
Smartphones send my Blood Pressure rising
You are rightly concerned that many of us have high blood pressure. Well, I can tell you it happens when we have to deal with NHS ideas that go wrong.
I don’t see why I should pay out hundreds of pounds a year for a Smartphone. If you want us to use them, lend us one. When you arrived on the Whitehall stage in 2118 you lasted six months as Minister for Digital, Culture, etc., even though you had worked in the family software business. Then, when Jeremy Hunt was shunted off to be Foreign Secretary, you were plonked into his shoes and made Minister of State in charge of our health.
Off you went around the country for photo-opportunities, where it may have escaped your notice that if you looked past the phalanx of NHS Admin. staff determined to get into the same press photo, hidden behind were patients – those people who are the reason for the NHS’s existence.
Elderly people who have lived through every sort of trouble, are – rightly – suspicious of what’s known as IT (Information Technology). Frank;y, when Gran can lift up an old-fashioned telephone that she understands, why should she pay out a large chunk of her tiny pension, just to have a Smartphone?
No doubt you came into the job of Minister for Health full of good intentions. But having fallen foul of the cack-handed way your bully-boys are trying to introduce digital technology into the NHS, I am not feeling too happy with you.
One thing you MUST learn is that if something is going to go wrong FIX IT before it breaks down. It is no good sending out emails saying your inbox is full. And adopting the old saying KISS (keep it simple, stupid) might be a good motto.
Currently the Army has a very good description of what’s happening to NHS IT – they would describe it as a G.M.F.U. (translation = Grand Military ….. I leave the rest to your imagination).