On Thursday 5th July 2018 the NHS turns 70. And as with any big birthday it prompts thoughts on what's to come for the UK's healthcare system.
Will the NHS be here in 30 years?
The NHS is close to every Briton's heart and is always at the top of the agenda for all political parties.
Just last week, Theresa May announced that the NHS is to receive an additional £20 billion a year by 2023 in what ministers are calling a 70th “birthday present”. This reinforces what a special case the health service is, given that it is the only area of spending that has been agreed outside of the normal process.
The love of the NHS can be further emphasised as the suggestion of introducing more charges, for example for seeing a GP, missing a hospital appointment or using A&E, have been quickly dismissed by ministers of all backgrounds in recent years.
In the 1960's, the UK saw a huge programme of hospital-building, creating the network of district general hospitals that are still used today. During the Blair government, these hospitals were updated and more Trusts were built. However, today, there is an undoubted shift away from hospital care. One reason for this is that some of the NHS care has moved out of hospitals and into the community. This is because it is cheaper and often better for the patient, for example older people are particularly at risk of losing their independence the longer they spend in hospital.
Over the past 20 years the number of hospital beds has shrunk by a third.
Robots will be doing surgery
It is predicted that technology is perhaps where we could see the biggest changes.
Robots currently exist within the NHS, or least robotic-assisted surgery - this is where doctors control robotic equipment from a console. The equipment can be more precise and is able to go where human hands could find it difficult to reach.
It is also predicted that we will soon see the NHS use artificial intelligence.
New era of medicine
Genomic medicine - is the tailoring care based on an individual's unique genetic code - and it is beginning to change the way people are cared for.
For example, genes can predict if a woman with breast cancer might respond to certain drugs, or whether radiotherapy is likely to shrink a tumour.
England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has urged the NHS to move more quickly and embrace the "genomic dream".
Others have said much the same about digital technologies.
Video consultations are beginning to be used to connect care homes and hospitals, while telecare is being installed in people's homes to allow health and care staff to remotely monitor and interact with vulnerable patients.
But again progress has proved slow. While many of our daily activities are now done online - from shopping to socialising - the NHS still relies very heavily on older technologies.
Fun fact - the NHS is said to be the biggest purchaser of pagers, faxes and stamps in the world. If nothing else, that should certainly change by the time the NHS is celebrating its centenary year.
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BBC News. (2018). Forget 70 - what will the NHS look like at 100?. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44567815 [Accessed 25 Jun. 2018]