Cancer Research UK – Digital Skills

Charity Cancer Research UK makes case for digital skills

Cancer Research UK, a leading cancer charity, contributed to a major review of the digital skills required in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Published in February, the independent Topol Review launched by Health Education England, focused on the changes needed to “prepare the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future”.

Planning for technological impact 

The review explores:

  • the potential scale of the changes
  • new roles likely to be required
  • disciplines in which greater capacity is needed most
  • key areas in which specialised education and training are needed.

The review also identifies opportunities for digital healthcare technologies to reshape the patient’s relationship with the healthcare system. 

Although acknowledging the impact of increasing demand, tightening budgets and clinical complexity, the report’s author takes an optimistic stance, including:

“The patient must be considered to be at the centre when assessing and implementing any new technologies.

Patients who are willing to take greater charge of their care using digital tools and algorithms will be empowered, but this should always be an opt-in choice for them.

A marked improvement in the patient-clinician relationship is possible, owing to the gift of time delivered by the introduction of these technologies.”  – Eric Topol MD, Topol Review

Cancer Research UK’s view on digital skill needs

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is the world’s largest independent cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. The charity outlined for the Topol Review its view of how technological changes will impact cancer services in the next decade:  

“1. Genetic testing for inherited risks – there is a gap in the current provision. Those with inherited gene faults will need further testing, increasing the demand on diagnostic staff. 

 2. Digital pathology – can help to improve early diagnosis of cancer. To realise the potential, challenges in storage space, equipment, processing power and working styles must be overcome.  

3. Artificial intelligence in the diagnostic pathway – likely to have the biggest impact in tasks that are binary and repetitive. This is likely to augment the work done by staff, giving them the ‘gift of time’ to provide better healthcare.  

4. Genomics and molecular diagnostics in treatment – will help tailor treatments to cancer patients. There will be increased pressures on staff working in genomic and genetic services, as demand for existing tests rises and our understanding of genomics improves. 

5. Innovative radiotherapy – will require more complex planning, taking more staff time. Greater numbers of specialist roles will be required.” – Cancer Research UK

Upskilling needed now

The Topol Review concludes by highlighting the urgency of developing the digital skills of the healthcare workforce:

“Recognising that there will be a five-to-seven-year time lag to full adoption, there is now a window of opportunity in which to strengthen the infrastructure, upskill the workforce and catalyse the transformation. There is no time to waste.” – Topol Review

Download the full submission to the Topol Review by the charity Cancer Research UK at…

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Download the Topol Review at…

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