This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

CAMHS won't see you now

GPs’ diagnostic skills could be obsolete within 20 years, says Hunt

The health secretary has claimed that GPs in 20 years’ time will not have to make diagnoses due to increasingly powerful diagnostic tools, and the NHS must position itself to be ready for the technology when it becomes available. 

Speaking at a fringe session at the Conservative party conference on Monday, Mr Hunt informed delegates that Silicon Valley tech ‘gurus’ were confident diagnosis by humans would be obsolete within two decades.

He also said that this would open up an exciting new prospect for medicine where problems can be identified and tackled before they even become symptomatic, although he did concede there was a lot of work to do to make this a realty.

Mr Hunt has long championed wider adoption of technology in the NHS, and at the same session he reminded delegates of his pledge to make the NHS paperless by 2018 – conceding that despite best efforts there may be ‘one or two bits of paper floating around’ by the deadline.

The health secretary was responding to a question on how the NHS can win the public’s trust for record-sharing initiatives, in the wake of the botched rollout of the GP record-sharing scheme, which has been delayed since early 2013.

Mr Hunt said that the Government still had to win the trust of the public, but added that technological developments were ‘exciting’. 

He told delegates: ‘If you talk to technology gurus in California and ask what’s going to change in the next two decades, they say “in 20 years’ time, no doctor will ever give a diagnosis”.

‘They say “You can get 300,000 biomarkers from a single drop of blood, so why would you depend on a human brain to calculate what that means when a computer can do it for you?”.

‘I think it’s really important that we’re ready in the NHS to harness the power of data to give us more accurate diagnoses, in particular with that example.’

He added: ‘What’s happened in medicine for the last two millenia is that you wait until you have a symptom and then a doctor tries to interpret the symptom.

’What this will mean, is we can identify problems before they’re symptomatic and therefore have a much better chance of tackling them. So it’s a pretty exciting prospect but there’s lots of work to do.’

NHS England recently produced an animation outlining its digital vision for the NHS, including health apps that upload information directly to the GP record and telehealth consultations.

Readers' comments (111)

  • Yet another prime example of how clueless this muppet is.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm inclined to agree a little bit with Mr Hunt a about this. Over the last 20 years I've seen many of the clinical skills I took pride in polishing up becoming obsolete as technology has improved. AND I don't think this is a bad thing in the overall scheme of healthcare.

    But a huge amount of our workload involves deciding when and what technology is appropriate (for blunderbuss tests are probably worse than no tests), making diagnoses that don't need any technology, assuring people that self-limiting conditions will get better by itself, supporting people with conditions that won't be amenable to being cured by any amount of technology, and managing mental illness (yes, Mr Cameron, we DO manage lots and lots of mental illness and we're very good at it) in which the technology base is miniscule. If you think you can get all those jobs done more cheaply by someone else, go for it. You won't be the first to have tried.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Can you please stop publicising his inane comments . I think it is giving me angina and I feel physically sick looking at him .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Bob Hodges

    Yeah right.

    Back in the 60s the future was supposed to be flying cars and meals in pill-form. We'd all be living on the moon too.

    We are more than 20 years from AI truly thinking like a human.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "Mr Hunt informed delegates that Silicon Valley tech ‘gurus’ were confident diagnosis by humans would be obsolete within two decades."

    Such futurism is scientifically and philosophically ridiculous.

    The caring profession replaced with TOOLS, TOOLKITS and ROBODOCS.

    Coming from our Health Secretary this is very concerning.

    Dr Peter J Gordon

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This man must know because he wears a nice badge with NHS on it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is nothing but privatisation of NHS.
    No one will value life;just people will be interested in getting investigations.obtain money.Its a shame that such a good getting destroyed because of this idiot.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • robots can quite easily sign sick notes for all the benefit scroungers

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Open the surgery doors please Hal........

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Shhhhh!!!!!

    Don't tell A level students as they may decide not to do medicine and for goodness sake don't tell any GP registrars or potential registrars in case they decide not to be GPs.

    Just might make the recruitment problem a little bit worse.

    But then again, we all know he is barking.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say