Healthcare revolution: The ten health innovations that could soon be on the NHS

In the 70 years since the NHS was established, medical breakthroughs such as MRI scanners, IVF and dialysis machines have transformed the health service and people’s lives. And while it’s impossible to predict how things will change over the next seven decades experts such as NHS England’s health innovation chief Professor Tony Young are predicting that technology will drive a healthcare revolution over the next five to ten years. “The NHS in England is bringing the latest and greatest innovations to patient care, and over the next few years we will be delivering some exciting and rapid technological advances that will put patients in the driving seat of their own health and treatment, and free up doctors and nurses time to further focus on treating and caring for patients,” said Professor Young, national clinical lead for innovation at NHS England.

“This is a particularly exciting time for technology-enabled transformation of care. This has the potential to fundamentally change the way health services are delivered, saving lives as well as costs,” said Dr Anne Blackwood, chief executive of Health Enterprise East, a technology adviser to the NHS. “Already in the pipeline there are new technologies with the potential to deliver massive cost savings and to revolutionise patient care,” she added. “This is a particularly exciting time for technology-enabled transformation of care,” Anne Blackwood Dr Jonathan Sheffield, Chief Executive at the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, added: “Medical research has completely transformed the NHS. With more health and social care professionals, patients and the public participating in research, we can help deliver more innovative and effective treatments for the next 70 years of the NHS .”

We came in at number 7…

CANCER Tumour removal: A promising new technique is being developed by Cambridge-based Ablatus Therapeutics, a spinout from the Norfolk & Norwich hospital. It builds on a technique called radiofrequency ablation, in which tumours and other growths are burnt away. However, the charring damages tissues, making it too dangerous for some areas of the body and limiting the size of the tumours that can be removed. The new method – called BETA (biomodal electric tissue ablation) – uses DC current as well as AC current. This attracts moisture and reduces charring and dehydration in the tissue, so it can be used to remove much bigger tumours and in more sensitive areas than existing ablation techniques. The technology is due to begin clinical trials in the next year or two with a view to becoming available for use at in 2020. Early detection: Physicists in Cambridge are using military surveillance technology to upgrade the endoscope – a flexible tube camera that enters through the mouth and inspects the oesophagus for signs of cancer. This improved camera uses colours of light the human eye can’t normally see, exposing very early cancer cells. People with higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer, such as those with Barrett’s oesophagus could be monitored with this technique. The “i” knife: Developed by Imperial College London, the iKnife is an intelligent surgical knife that can tell surgeons immediately whether the tissue they are cutting is cancerous or not – something that is often impossible to tell by sight at the moment. The iKnife is an adapted electrosurgical knife, which heats tissue as it cuts to make a clean incision. Smoke from the tissue is ionised and analysed using a mass spectrometer, providing information about chemical composition of the cells. The knife is currently being trialled for use in breast cancer patients.