Transforming the NHS: A grassroots revolution

Pre-pandemic, the health service was hopelessly siloed and allergic to new technology. Its rapid transformation in the teeth of a crisis is a lesson for even the most complex of organisations.

by Andrew Saunders

Cast your mind back to mid-March last year. The WHO had just declared a global pandemic and the UK government was about to ditch its do-nothing herd immunity strategy, panicked by ‘that’ Imperial College modelling paper which ominously predicted that without lockdown the UK health system might quickly collapse under the strain.

No wonder that at around the same time, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens called the rapidly escalating coronavirus crisis “arguably the greatest challenge” to have faced the health service since its creation amidst the rationing, austerity and general era of post-war trauma that was 1948.

Now getting on for a year later we can see that Stevens wasn’t far off in his assessment. With well over four million cases and more than 120,000 deaths so far, coronavirus has indeed presented an unprecedented and ongoing challenge for the nation’s health service and its 1.3m staff. The equivalent, as one observer put it, of an athlete running several marathons, back to back, all at a sprinter’s pace. 

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