David Davis stuns Commons with calls for blanket testing to save NHS £3bn a year


As published in the Express

Ministers are being urged to introduce mass medical testing to cut NHS costs by billions and save thousands of lives.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis stunned the Commons chamber with a radical new plan to save thousands of lives and save the NHS billions.

Mr Davis called for mass medical testing across the whole UK population by private companies which he believes will alert the NHS to potential health risks for individuals and allow for lifestyle changes and treatment before problems become serious.

Responding to the King’s speech in the Commons, he told MPs that the NHS was one of the threee big challenges along with housing facing the country and reaching crisis point.

He said (video above): “I bring it back to the reality of individuals. If we delay diagnosis, we delay treatment – we sentence people to death. It’s as harsh as that.

“So one of the things I would like to see us do is to dramatically increase the amount of diagnostic capacity we have.”

He warned that current prejudices against using private health companies was holding Britain back and if the NHS was to be rescued then the testing capacity would need to come from the private sector.

Mr Davis went on: “It is a waste of money not to do the diagnosis. I’m talking about MRI scans and CT scans and blood tests and all the other things that help get ahead of the disease.

“And I talked to Randox, one of the diagnostic companies – and I think its based in Northern Ireland. I asked about this and they have technology that will they say reduce a seven day analysis, of blood samples for example, to 30 minutes.

“My view is that actually we should break clear of the ideology. We should look to increase dramatically the amount of scans and diagnostic procedures we can create. And when I say dramatically, I mean a multiple of what we currently do and we should use the private sector to do it.

“I know it causes a bridling and a backing off but I think the only way we can do it fast enough is to do that. And that will save I think about £3 billion, get the waiting lists down by millions of people but most importantly of all it will save thousands of lives.”

Mr Davis was reacting to a paper drawn up by Northern Ireland medical testing company Randox, one of the private health providers who developed Covid testing during lockdown.

The paper has been drawn up by scientists at Randox, scaling up its testing capacity from 300 tests to day to 120,000 a day in less than 12 months. Overall, the firm conducted nearly 27 million tests during the pandemic.

Dr Peter Fitzgerald, the founder of Randox, said that with NHS waiting lists not far short of eight million people and with budgets under intense pressure, the time had come for a new partnership between the public and private sectors.

Ministers should start by convening a summit of private diagnostic firms and their NHS counterparts and investigate the potential of the enormous advances in testing technologies developed in recent years. By harnessing the startling progress made by scientists they could revolutionise standards of health care while slashing waiting lists and achieving far greater value for money.

Dr Fitzgerald said: “Policy-makers need to appreciate the vast potential of the latest diagnostic testing technologies. They can deliver a step-change in the quality of people’s lives. By outsourcing much testing to the private sector – under a rigorous independent tendering process – the NHS can be freed up to get on with its prime job of treating the sick.”

Under the Randox plan, the public would be invited to visit a private diagnostic clinic every year for a check-up. Results would be monitored by in house scientists who would advise people on next steps. Results would be routinely passed onto their GPs, though in many cases no further action would be needed.

GPs would ultimately decide on medical interventions and possible referral to NHS hospital services.

A priority group for such tests would be the 7.7 million on NHS waiting lists. They would be assessed to see if their condition had worsened and whether urgent action was required.

High-tech comprehensive testing of the population would also reduce if not eliminate the many false positives arising from much of the diagnostic services available today.

For instance, 200,000 people on the waiting list are suspected of having prostate cancer in England. Randox estimate that 75 per cent of these people will test negative and not require a painful biopsy, meaning a 150,000 reduction of people on the waiting list. Similar figures apply to cystoscopies for bladder cancer.

In total, the Randox paper calculates that its multiplex testing technology could save the NHS £3 billion a year and cut waiting lists by 2.2 million.