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Roy Lilley: Let’s make innovation and ingenuity the legacy of Covid


in an exclusive blog for Digital Health Rewired, NHS commentator Roy Lilley looks at how the pandemic has forced the NHS to innovate with new ideas and news ways of working – and how this change can help us overcome future challenges

Covid has been a disaster.  A disaster for people and their families, a disaster for people and their business, our kids for their education and anyone with a granny fit-n-well and still in a care home, must be thanking their lucky stars.

Have you noticed how the media is starting to make retrospective programmes?  The first year of Covid and all that malarkey.  The Health Select Committee is ‘inquiring’ into Covid.  They are all thinly disguised, early attempts, to look for somebody to blame.  

But there is something much more interesting going on, with a far greater imperative.

Covid has been the fulcrum point of change.  Change to the way staff behave, rosters are filled, work is done.  There is no way the NHS would have survived the onslaught without innovation and nimble management.

When the R number gets back in its box and hospitals get back to whatever is the new normal, it’s not over. There is another onslaught on the way. 

Before Covid, NHS waiting lists for elective procedures were running at about four million.  Now?  No idea.  Could be six, might be ten.  Every day that goes by there will be people not turning up at their GP’s for fear of catching something or being a nuisance.  I hate to think the number of undiagnosed cancers there might be. There is a tsunami of patients, set to overwhelm us. What do we do about it?

There is some hope that can be found in the legacy of Covid.  Throughout the pandemic new ideas have been bench tested in the reality of the front line.  New ways of working have emerged.

People just got on and got stuff done.  They didn’t ask for permission, they didn’t ask for money.  There was no procurement.  They just fixed things. That is the legacy of Covid: innovation, ingenuity.

The great trick to managing change (actually, there are two) is respect the past and take the best into the future. And understand people love change if they think they are in charge. That should be our mission now.

In case we forget about the things we did, every trust should appoint a Covid custodian, to keep a record of what changed, what worked and what didn’t.

So many of the good things have their roots in the management of the information through technology.  Every idea is precious.  How many bright ideas could go dull, over time?

The Academy of Fabulous Stuff has hundreds of ideas as part of its ‘no going back’ campaign and Rewired 2021 is filled with examples of this in practice.

It is more than good management for the NHS, it is a deliberate way of saying to people who have suffered so much, thank you and what we have learned will make the NHS a safer, more efficient place. The legacy will be spelt out every day as the NHS faces its next challenge to tackle the inevitable backlog of patients needing care and to bring peace of mind to a worried nation.  

  • Find out what examples of ingenuity and innovation emerged in the NHS during Rewired 2021

Get your ticket for Digital Health Rewired 2021 to join the must-attend virtual festival celebrating the best of digital health and care, taking place across 15-19 March 2021. 

Book your place here


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