Healthcare overhaul could lead to isolated services and more complex system, warns technology boss

The UK managing director of a global health and care technology company has warned that the biggest legislative overhaul of the NHS in a decade may lead to isolated services and an even more complicated healthcare system.

Integrated care systems (ICSs), which are the centerpiece of the Health and Care Bill, have been set up around England, working under integrated care boards (ICBs), to join up health and social care services.

Earlier this month, the National Audit Office said they have been broadly welcomed but are under pressure from the service and financial pressures on the NHS.

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However, Gavin Bashar, UK managing director of Tunstall Healthcare, believes that replacing more than 100 clinical commissioning groups with 42 integrated care systems (ICSs), is not enough to create the joined up health and care system that the country desperately needs.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “The real gap is that commonality of thinking. My concern is that whilst we’re seeing a condensing of all the disparate health authorities and local authorities, we will create 42 fairly independent silos that won’t communicate to each other.”

He added: “The problem you’ve got, especially when you’re looking at population health management, is that people don’t stay in the same place. We’re very inconvenient as residents. We don’t stay within one ICS boundary.

“It feels to me as though ICSs are going off in different directions. So we could just be recreating the old world, albeit in 42 areas and even more complex.”

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Tunstall Healthcare, which is headquartered at Whitley Bridge, between Doncaster and Selby where it employs about 200 people, started in Yorkshire as a TV repair shop over 65 years ago. It pioneered the introduction of telecare and telehealth in the 2000s which created the technology enabled care market as it is today.

It now employs around 3,000 people in total to support more than five million people across 19 countries, including those living with dementia, learning disabilities, physical disabilities and long-term health conditions.

It has a manufacturing plant at its main site in Whitley as well as a monitoring service nearby, which employs a further 75-80 staff. It recently opened a small office in Manchester to expand its development operations.

Mr Bashar said: "We decided to expand our operations across the Pennines so we could capture different skill sets and talent over in the Manchester region.”

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The company is currently focused on meeting the surge in demand for technology within the health and social care space, and moving its products and services from analogue to digital and from reactive to preventative.

He added: “It’s really exciting times for Tunsall. We’ve taken time to get out to market but we’ve got releases of our digital products, solutions and platforms coming in 2023-24.

"The development of the market from reactive to preventative and the integration of services, digitisation and data analytics is really exciting. That’s not going to be completed in 2023 but it’s the start of that journey.”