Maximising the time for care in the NHS

Today, NHS England and Microsoft announced a landmark 5-year partnership aimed at creating a more seamless and efficient experience for its 1.5 million staff while cutting the amount of time patients are forced to spend waiting for treatments.

The partnership, which will see us supply a variety of digital solutions to NHS organisations all over the country, is the latest step in a trusted relationship that has already spanned several decades. It will also be key to accelerating the ongoing digital transformation of the health service, one of the world’s greatest and most-loved public institutions.

Personally speaking, it is something of which I am extremely proud. Microsoft’s work with the NHS is genuinely helping to improve people’s lives. Since the start of the pandemic, for example, the roll out of Microsoft Teams across the organisation saved NHS employees around 17 million hours of productive time, allowing them to concentrate on dealing with the extraordinary levels of demand for healthcare instead.

Today’s partnership announcement could not be more timely. As we celebrate the NHS’s 75th anniversary, it faces some of the greatest challenges in its history: record waiting lists; soaring inflation; an aging population; and chronic staff shortages. Microsoft’s digital technologies can – and must – contribute to easing these pressures by increasing productivity, supporting collaboration and mitigating security threats.

A lighter load

In short, we must help equip the NHS to thrive in a digital-first world, enabling it to deliver high quality services to patients more quickly, efficiently and equitably.

Using the Microsoft cloud to automate processes is a great place to start as the more we can do to lighten healthcare professionals’ administrative load and alleviate the pressures on their time, the more they can focus on doing what they do best: caring for patients.

As well as freeing up staff from repetitive tasks and unnecessary meetings, automation can also help streamline the process of onboarding for new clinicians, while cloud technologies reduce the need for capital investment in on-premises infrastructure, generating further savings for the NHS that can be redirected to patient care.

Collaboration empowered

The impact on patients’ experiences should be equally transformative. Whether it’s at their GP surgery, on the wards or in a specialist hospital, people want and expect their interactions with the NHS to be joined-up.

Microsoft’s digital technologies can help make that happen, giving staff from across different NHS departments and geographical locations the power to connect and collaborate on the delivery of truly integrated care services.

Imagine nurses overseeing bed and capacity management, for example. By using Teams, they can build a 360-degree view of patient requirements, share operational documents instantly and communicate any changes and updates with each other at speed.

A securer future

Microsoft technologies can also help solve another of the health service’s most pressing concerns: cybersecurity. The volume of data and personal information held by the NHS is greater than ever and the positive side of this is that it enables better, more connected treatment for patients.

However, it is also intensifies the security risk, especially with criminals becoming ever more sophisticated and frequent in their attacks. The financial, operational and societal costs of an NHS cyber breach could undoubtedly be significant and damaging.

In 2021, Microsoft committed to investing $20 billion in security over the next five years to continue protecting our customers around the world. Today’s agreement will enable Microsoft to continue to work with NHS England and Local NHS Organisations, developing the required access to a comprehensive suite of security solutions to protect their people, data and assets. These include threat protection, data governance and compliance solutions that will continue to bolster the health service’s cyber resilience going forward.

Proud history, ambitious future

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. And nowhere is this more important than in the world of healthcare. One of our company’s most important achievements was the assistance we gave to the NHS during the pandemic, ensuring GP practices, NHS organisations and national bodies could keep their systems running and their people working together at a time of unprecedented national need.

We have also worked closely with NHS IT staff to accelerate the digital transformation of its systems faster than was ever believed possible and continue to support the much-needed shift towards the remote delivery of key elements of the patient journey. Read more about the different elements of our longstanding NHS partnership.

Yet while we are proud of those achievements so far, what really matters is what’s next. The health service once again finds itself facing widespread transformation and reform alongside the ever-present challenge of improving outcomes while limiting costs. Now more than ever, we must look to technology as a way to maximise the time NHS staff have for care and to, ultimately, deliver better experiences for patients. On the path to a digital future, Microsoft is committed to helping the NHS every step of the way.

Find out more

Maximising time to care: accelerating NHS digital achievements, at scale

NHS makes data more discoverable using Azure Cognitive Search to save clinicians’ time

vCreate & Microsoft Azure connects patients with their families and clinical teams

About the author

Jacob West

Jacob leads Microsoft’s UK local government, healthcare and life sciences business.

A former adviser to two UK Prime Ministers, Jacob has worked in healthcare locally, nationally and internationally, in the NHS and overseas.

Jacob was the Harkness Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London’s Public Policy Institute.