Dr Ben Goldacre to lead new tech advisory board for NHS

Dr Ben Goldacre has been appointed chair of a new health tech advisory board for the NHS, reporting directly to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

Dr Ben Goldacre (Photo: RCGP)
Dr Ben Goldacre (Photo: RCGP)

Dr Goldacre is a keynote speaker at the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday morning.

Mr Hancock  said the board would highlight where technological change needs to happen, where best practice is not being followed, and become an ideas hub for how to improve patient outcomes and experience and make the lives of NHS staff easier.

Dr Goldacre is senior clinical research fellow at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, and best-selling author of the book Bad Science. His EBM DataLab combinines the skills of academics, clinicians and software engineers to create useful tools from academic and health data.

Mr Hancock said he wanted to make the NHS an ecosytem for the best technology available, a culture change that would require stronger management and leadership.

‘We should train more of our own, yes, and bring in more talent from the outside too who know how to inspire change. And we are starting this at the top. I am creating a HealthTech Advisory Board consisting of tech experts, clinicians and academics, and, as in the case of Ben, people who combine that holy trinity 3 in 1.’

Making use of data

The appointment will spark extra interest around Dr Goldacre’s speech on Thursday morning, following criticism of the health and social care secretary’s championing of Babylon and its controversial GP at Hand online consulting service.

Dr Goldacre’s presentation, entitled Better Data, Better Doctors, Better Patients, will set out his vision of medicine as ‘a craft informed by evidence and data’.

‘In an ideal world we would be constantly surveying the horizon, identifying uncertainty about treatment benefits, conducting good cheap trials and fair tests to find out what works best,' he said.

‘Then we would summarise that evidence and communicate it, as swiftly as possible, to coalface clinicians and patients in intelligible nuggets, and we would be auditing across the country, in routine data, to see whether new evidence is being applied.

‘We fall short on every single step of the way but that’s not the fault of individuals. This is all eminently fixable: there are simple things the NHS, academics, and clinicians can do to make it easy for doctors and patients to follow the evidence.’

Dr Goldacre will also be showcasing the first output of his EBM DataLab at the conference, a live explorer for individual practice prescribing data called OpenPrescribing at the conference in a workshop session on Thursday afternoon.

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