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Health

Emotional intelligence, not just artificial intelligence, will be key to the NHS, say doctors

  • 81% of doctors say skilled volunteers in the NHS could help safeguard its future
  • 56% of doctors say the NHS would derive most benefit from tech-literate young volunteers who could teach patients to use new technologies
  • 36% of doctors say the NHS would benefit from skilled volunteer project managers who can play a role either implementing new IT or developing and scaling volunteer services
  • 45% of doctors say politicians should volunteer in the NHS to develop their EQ skills
  • How can organisations such as the NHS and charities benefit from a new breed of volunteer, people who bring both professional and personal skills to their volunteering role? Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England & co-founder of Pro Bono Economics, discusses volunteering and the Fourth Industrial Revolution at Pro Bono Economics’ annual lecture, Weds 22 May, at the Royal Society. 

Andy Haldane, says:
Technology will transform our future working lives and working habits.  The rise of Artificial Intelligence will put an even greater premium on interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence – EQ rather than IQ.   In this environment, people will be drawn to an even greater extent than in the past to purposeful activities which use and develop these skills.  That includes volunteering, for example in the NHS or in charities.  Doing so will enhance people’s lives and well-being, improve the effectiveness of charities and the NHS and create much-needed social capital for societies.”

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, Founder and Chair of Helpforce, commented: “Realistically, the NHS can only consider deploying skilled volunteers, or increasing its volunteer base, if structures are in place to manage the process, but this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or can’t be done.  If we can efficiently direct more front-line resource to the benefit of patients, that can only be a positive. Volunteers do not get paid for their work, and they should never be considered a replacement for frontline staff or a clinical workforce. That is why Helpforce has worked closely with health unions to deliver a new charter and establish formal boundaries between the role of a volunteer and the role of staff in our health care.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is in the vanguard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as technology further transforms our way of life.  At the same time economists suggest that as AI and robotics redefine traditional jobs, and as people look for new purpose in their lives, more of them are likely to volunteer.

Healthcare professionals already acknowledge the benefits of AI, machine learning and other scientific innovations that replicate human IQ (cognitive) skills, but, as new research by charity Pro Bono Economics reveals, doctors strongly believe that human EQ (emotional quotient) skills remain key to the NHS’s future.

An estimated three million volunteers are already active in the NHS and social care. And as NHS England gears up to grow its volunteer workforce from 80,000 to156,000 over the next three years1, eight in 10 (81%) GP’s and hospital doctors say it could be expanded in future to include more skilled volunteers – people who use both their professional and personal skills in their volunteer roles –  to help safeguard the NHS.2

While doctors appreciate the contribution that professional volunteers like lawyers, and economists can make, it turns out they are twice as likely to value the skills that tech-savvy young volunteers can apply to the NHS. Of the 1,000 doctors surveyed by medeConnect Healthcare Insight, over half (56%, comprising 59% of GP’s and 55% of secondary care doctors) say that the NHS would derive most benefit from tech-literate young people who could teach patients to use new technologies:  One GP from South Wales commented: “I deal with the very elderly, many of whom struggle with even basic technology.  Someone to support them to use current technologies would be the best use of volunteering.” 

Meanwhile, a third (36%) of doctors say the NHS would benefit from skilled volunteer project managers who can play a role either implementing new IT or developing and scaling volunteer services.  “Skilled volunteers need managing and that takes resources”, commented a hospital consultant from the Midlands.

Other skilled volunteer roles that doctors deem potentially beneficial for the NHS include:

  • Data analysts to work on large and complex health datasets (32%);
  • AI and robotics experts to improve productivity of staff, or to innovate in the fields of health and social benefits (31%);
  • Economists who could help NHS trusts demonstrate the societal benefit of new innovations and secure future funding from government (26%);
  • Lawyers who could help trusts and practices in developing positive strategies to reduce legal challenges against them (23%).

■ Doctors say that volunteering is beneficial to the volunteers too

Over half (51%) of doctors surveyed say that people under 25 are the group most likely to benefit from their volunteering role, as it would teach them valuable life skills and people skills. According to doctors, established professionals who would most benefit from increasing their EQ by volunteering include: politicians (45%); employees of major tech companies (23%); management consultants (22%); civil servants (16%); economists, journalists and lawyers (14%); bankers (13%), and employees from social media firms (10%).

■ The challenges of scaling-up volunteering / Helpforce’s NHS volunteer charter

Although most doctors are supportive of skilled volunteering in the NHS, some have concerns that volunteers will be used as a replacement for paid clinical staff in order to cut costs, which could compromise patient safety.

–            “Utilising skilled volunteers in the NHS will limit employing proper professional support in areas where they are desperately needed within our organisation – IT professionals, robotic engineers and economists as professionals.” Specialist registrar, Midlands.   

–            “Skilled volunteers need managing and that takes resources.”  Consultant, Midlands

–             “If skilled volunteering was managed from grassroots people, not politicians, it could be very beneficial.” Specialist registrar, North West

To address these challenges, volunteering charity Helpforce, which aims to increase the number of volunteers in the NHS, recently launched a charter showing how volunteers can make a valuable contribution to the NHS in England, without undermining paid staff or affecting patient safety.  Among the key principles enshrined in the charter are:

  • Volunteers should not undermine paid staff, with essential care tasks reserved for health employees.
  • No volunteers should be included in the workforce numbers for individual trusts and they must be clearly identified as volunteers.
  • Unions will monitor how volunteers are used within organisations, with patient safety and confidentiality the primary concern.

■ The Pro Bono Economics Annual Lecture: The Fourth Industrial Revolution – a turning point for the third sector?

In a lecture tonight (Wednesday 22nd May) at the Royal Society, marking the 10th anniversary of economics volunteering charity Pro Bono Economics (PBE), Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England and co-founder of PBE, will argue that, in the brave new world of robots, driverless trucks and automated tasks, the responsibilities of traditional jobs will be redefined. In the future, as people look for new purpose in their lives, more of them will become likely to volunteer.

Among the big questions that Andy Haldane will explore are:

  • How will society rise to the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and make the most of the opportunities that it holds?
  • How will we find the right balance between artificial intelligence and the human factor?
  • How can organisations such as the NHS and charities benefit from a new breed of volunteer, people who bring both professional and personal skills to their volunteering role?

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England and co-founder of volunteering charity Pro Bono Economics, commented:

Technology will transform our future working lives and working habits.  The rise of Artificial Intelligence will put an even greater premium on interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence – EQ rather than IQ.   In this environment, people will be drawn to an even greater extent than in the past to purposeful activities which use and develop these skills.  That includes volunteering, for example in the NHS or in charities.  Doing so will enhance people’s lives and well-being, improve the effectiveness of charities and the NHS and create much-needed social capital for societies.”

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, Founder and Chair of Helpforce, a new organisation using the power of volunteering to improve health and wellbeing, commented:

There is a huge appetite for volunteering in the NHS: over the last five months alone we have recruited 34,000 new volunteers, many of whom have valuable professional skills to bring to their volunteering roles, complementing the compassion and comfort they provide every day – whether directly or indirectly – to patients.

Volunteers do not, of course, get paid for their work, and they should never be considered a replacement for frontline staff or a clinical workforce. That is why we have worked closely with health unions to deliver a new charter and establish formal boundaries between the role of a volunteer and the role of staff in our healthcare, and to create a national standard for us all to aspire to. That being said, a volunteer might, in special circumstances, bring professional skills to the NHS which it simply might not have access to otherwise. An example of this are the IT experts who volunteered to help one NHS trust restore normality after a dramatic ransomware attack that froze computers across the health service in May 2017. The positive implications of such professional intervention, in terms both of restoring normal service and of damage limitation, are not only considerable but readily quantifiable.”

■ Innovations that have the most potential to transform the NHS

47% of doctors say that technology and genetic therapies with the capacity to cure and prevent serious medical conditions have the most potential to transform the NHS in the future.

  • Big data, such as genomic data and patient records to aid prevention, diagnosis and treatment (41%)
  • Precision and personalised medicine (36%)
  • Online consultations in secondary care to reduce patients’ need to travel to appointments for complex health conditions (32%)
  • AI and robots to aid medical diagnosis and treatment (20%)
  • AI in support of doctor learning and CPD (continued professional development) (17%)

■ Who should pay for innovation in the NHS?

When asked to rate potential funding sources for new innovations and technology in the NHS, 29% of doctors most favour a new targeted tax on internet giants, with proceeds going directly to the NHS.  24% think that the best option is for the NHS to partner with companies and universities that offer AI and technology expertise, and 26% recommend renewed efforts to cut wasteful spend.

■ Doctors views on AI & new technologies

Doctors recognise the potential that scientific and technological advances hold for transformation of the NHS, but many believe that AI and robotics should not replace clinical staff, believing that these technologies should act solely as a practical aid.  Consequently, on average, doctors say that only 26% of their job will depend on/be replaced by AI and robotics by 2030.   39% say that AI and robotics will make no difference to their working day at all, 27% think it will reduce their working hours, giving them more time to spend with patients or do related work.  While 8% say it is likely to increase the length of their working day.

  • My radiology workstation is often unable to load scans without crashing, and our software is around ten years old.  The idea of AI and robots seems distant and rather unrealistic at this stage.” Consultant, Scotland
  • AI / robots have to be used in the right place. At the end of the day they should be there to support, not replace human physicians.” Specialist registrar, Scotland
  • If we can automate admin-heavy roles and increase clinical time for clinicians through incorporating AI into NHS systems I think it will be most welcome.” Specialist registrar, North East
  • Robots and AI can carry out automated tasks and not fall sick and work 24hrs a day, and therefore be more productive. AI can be used to diagnose conditions but will not have the empathy of a human.” GP, South East
  • I’m excited about the use of AI to improve patient care and hopefully reduce the unsustainable stress of working in the NHS.” GP Partner, North West
  • AI is not a panacea. Robots need humans to run and maintain them.  They are worse than nothing when they break down.  At least humans repair themselves!”  Consultant, North West
  • There is potential for AI in a future NHS, but it needs to be carefully managed as part of a planned transformation program and not left to tech companies acting as market disruptors.” Locum GP, London
  • Robotics and automation could make a massive difference.  I think AI will fail; we do not have the data sets we need to drive it.” Specialist registrar, Midlands
  • AI may help but the only thing that can save the NHS is proper funding in order to have enough nurses and doctors to allow it to work properly as well as the money to spend on these new technologies.” GP, London
  • AI/robots will help in fields such as use of insulin pumps in diabetes (especially for data interpretation), but otherwise I think patients will continue to need human contact by doctors.” Speciality doctor, South East
  • I think this will be an important technology in future. it would reduce workload and burnout of doctors.” Speciality doctor, London
  • Ends –

For queries or interview / case study requests/regional breakdown across the UK, contact:

SENSO Communications

Penny Lukats – 07775 992350  penny@sensocommunications.com 

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the survey Survey of 1,004 doctors: 203 GPs and 801 secondary care doctors in the UK carried out by medeConnect Healthcare Insight between 26th April till 2nd May 2019

References

  1. NHS Long Term Plan https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/online-version/chapter-4-nhs-staff-will-get-the-backing-they-need/8-volunteers/
  2. Survey of 1,004 doctors: 203 GPs and 801 SCs in the UK carried out by MedeConnect Healthcare Insight between 26th April till 2nd May 2019
  3. Speech given by Andrew G Haldane, Chief Economist, Bank of England. Pro Bono Economics lecture to the Society of Business Economists, London 9 September 2014

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/speech/2014/in-giving-how-much-do-we-receive-the-social-value-of-volunteering

About Pro Bono Economics:

Pro Bono Economics helps charities and social enterprises understand and improve the impact and value of their work, matching professional economists who want to use their skills to volunteer with charities. Set up in 2009, Pro Bono Economics has helped over 400 charities large and small, covering a wide range of issues including mental health, education, employment and complex needs.

Pro Bono Economics is supported by high-profile economists, including Andy Haldane (Bank of England), Sir Dave Ramsden (Bank of England), and Clare Lombardelli (HM Treasury) as Trustees, and Diane Coyle (University of Cambridge), Kate Barker, Lord Jim O’Neill, Robert Peston, Martin Wolf and Lord Adair Turner as patrons. Lord Gus O’Donnell has been Chair of the Board of Trustees since September 2016.

probonoeconomics.com @ProBonoEcon

About Helpforce

Helpforce is using the power of volunteering to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the UK. It wants to help double the number of volunteers working in the NHS by 2021, and see a recognisable improvement in the range and quality of volunteer roles available to support patient care in hospital and at home.

  • Helpforce was formally established as a Community Interest Company in September 2017 and both its Board and Advisory Board includes leaders from across the NHS, voluntary and wider public sector.
  • www.helpforce.community
  • @help_force