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NHS will ‘go the way of Woolworths’ unless it adopts new technology to become more efficient, warns Labour’s health spokesman Wes Streeting

The NHS risks going ‘the way of Woolworths’ if it fails to introduce new technology that will make it more efficient, Wes Streeting has warned.

Labour’s shadow health secretary said the service must modernize as there is “no scope” for spending much higher and “no future” if the service continues to rely on “outdated” and “expensive” ways of working.

He compared the NHS to Woolies, which he described as a ‘much-loved national institution’, but one that ‘didn’t change with the times and lag behind’.

The High Street retailer closed in 2009, with the loss of more than 800 stores, after struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crash.

Mr Streeting said the Government has been too “timid” when it comes to making the changes needed for the NHS to thrive, and insisted he would go further.

Speaking at the WIRED Health event in London this afternoon, Labour’s shadow spokesman on health, Wes Streeting, said the Conservatives had been too timid and that Labor would go further. He said this would include sharing all GP patient records across the health service so people can get better shared care

He vowed to face the “vested interests” of those promoting the status quo and tackle the “scaremongering” of the “tinfoil hat brigade” on social media, which he said has undue influence on NHS policy.

The MP for Ilford North said he would force GPs to share patients’ medical records across the health service so people can benefit from more personalized care.

This would also lead to the development of new treatments, better sharing of preventive health advice and an opportunity to participate in more clinical trials, he added.

Current plans for the NHS’s ‘federated data platform’ only involve sharing hospital data – and even this has been met with outrage from privacy campaigners.

Speaking at the WIRED Health event in London this afternoon, Mr Streeting said: ‘Unleashing the power of technology is not abstract.

‘This is about how many patients the NHS can treat and how long they have to wait.

‘It’s also about our experience as patients. How we are kept informed and how our time is respected.

“An estimated 13.5 million hours of physician time are wasted each year due to inefficient IT.

‘If we fix that it would be the equivalent of 8,000 new doctors joining the NHS. That’s the difference between massive NHS staff shortages and filling almost every doctor vacancy.

‘As our country’s population ages, population health deteriorates and chronic diseases increase, this is also about the sustainability of the NHS: whether it can survive the next decade.

Mr Streeting said: 'There is no future for the NHS that involves continuing with an outdated, inefficient and costly way of working as demands on services rise and costs pile up.  'The NHS is at a crossroads.  Five more years of Conservatives and it could go the way of Woolworths: a beloved national institution that has failed to move with the times and has been left behind.'  Pictured: Woolworths in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 2000

Mr Streeting said: ‘There is no future for the NHS that involves continuing with an outdated, inefficient and expensive way of working as demands on services rise and costs pile up. ‘The NHS is at a crossroads. Five more years of Conservatives and it could go the way of Woolworths: a beloved national institution that failed to change with the times and was left behind.’ Pictured: Woolworths in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 2000

‘The health care budget this year amounted to 42 percent of departmental expenditure. Because the Conservatives have crashed the economy, there is no room for it to rise much further.

‘So there is no future for the NHS continuing with an outdated, inefficient and costly way of working, as demands on services rise and costs pile up.’

He added: ‘The NHS is at a crossroads. Five more years of Conservatives and things could go the way of Woolworths: a beloved national institution that has failed to move with the times and has been left behind.

‘That is the path we are following today. But it is not inevitable. The NHS can change and the staff who work there are crying out for change.”

His comments come a fortnight after Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the NHS needs an ‘M&S moment’.

She revealed that the Department of Health and Social Care had hired former M&S chief executive Steve Rowe as NHS productivity czar, after crediting him with taking the store ‘out of the doldrums’.

Ms Atkins said the ‘tough guy’ turned his fortunes around by ’embracing modernity’ and demanded the health service do the same.

She added: ‘We are on the cusp of a medical revolution, where technology, personalized therapies and better data can transform outcomes for a generation that is more health-conscious than anyone before them.

‘The NHS must seize this opportunity and look to the future, not limit ourselves to what has always been done. In fact, it should have – so to speak – an M&S moment.”