After an election campaign where restart and recovery took centre stage, it’s now up to the Scottish Government to deliver on pledges made during the campaign trail. For all the differences between Scotland’s main political parties, the need to ensure the NHS gets back to full capacity unites them all.

For patients and the NHS, this means delivering on the promise to not only restart care and clinical trials but to accelerate access to treatment for conditions like cancer. For the pharmaceutical industry we believe that the Scottish Government has a unique opportunity to re-shape care by placing a new focus on innovation and collaboration.

Back in 2016, Scotland’s then Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood bemoaned that it takes a whole generation to embed innovation within the health service. Given the need for the NHS to find an extra 10% capacity, it must work smarter, not harder. This is especially true as Covid-19 has sapped energy from clinicians and contributed to increased absences across the piece.

Whilst the pandemic has exacerbated a number of issues for the NHS, the way in which the system responded to Covid-19 does provide a blueprint for recovery. During the pandemic, the NHS rolled out new digital and data innovations at breakneck speed in order to keep key parts of the service operating.

This was no clearer than in the rapid expansion of NHS Near Me, which went from handling hundreds of appointments per week to hundreds of thousands in the space of a month. Clearly the old analogy
about speed boats and oil tankers bears no weight when faced with a global public health emergency.

The pharmaceutical industry believes that a more agile NHS which uses data and new digital solutions can not only help tackle the patient backlog but also provide better care in the process. Data is a tool which can help clinicians make better decisions, but investment and clear policy direction is required for pandemic-induced improvements to be rolled into regular practice.

Therefore, it is crucial that the new Scottish Government develops, and funds, a Healthcare Data strategy to not only transform the landscape but equip nurses and doctors with the latest digital technology to implement lasting improvements.

For the pharmaceutical industry innovation is at the heart of what we do, and the pandemic demonstrated what can be achieved when all parts of the system work together. The next stage should focus on how we take beneficial Covid-19 changes and embed them within care.

For patients and the NHS, the speedier adoption of innovation must be one of these changes and we can no longer wait a generation for this to happen.