Health Service Focus

04.10.17

Digital NHS: from press release to reality

Source: NHE Sep/Oct 17

NHE’s Josh Mines reports from NHS Expo 2017, where the digital transformation of the health service was at the top of the agenda. 

Unsurprisingly, the topic of digital transformation and the future modernisation of NHS records, systems and services was a key talking point at NHS Expo 2017. 

In a year where trusts had to deal with one of the largest cyber security threats in NHS history, make preparations to go paperless and hear countless jokes about the health service being the world’s biggest purchaser of pagers and fax machines, it was clear that swift changes needed to be delivered to bring the sector into the 21st century. 

But for NHS leaders, it seems there’s a level of optimism that changes can and already are being slowly made. 

In his much-anticipated keynote, health secretary Jeremy Hunt set a number of ambitious targets for organisations to meet by the end of 2018 – the year the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday. Services such as NHS 111, medical records and GP appointment bookings, according to Hunt, should all be available to every patient in England via an app. 

“If the NHS is going to be the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world, we need to do technology better,” he said. “I do not underestimate the challenge of getting there – but if we do it will be the best possible 70th birthday present from the NHS to its patients.” 

Trusts are making progress 

Similarly, Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s national director for operations and information, argued that all organisations have a better sense of partnership with their IT departments than they did a year ago, and all are moving forwards when it comes to digital reform. 

But there is still large variation in the rate of change across the country, despite pioneers like the global digital exemplars. “We have some brilliant sustainability and transformation partnerships who are at the leading edge of change and some who are struggling to build those partnerships,” Swindells stated. “If we can build on that and the use of tech and IT to accelerate what we’re doing, we can make a big change.” 

But the main goal should always be to develop a system tailored to individual needs. “The focus is on the patient, self-care and on empowering their carers to look after them,” he explained. “We are opening up a system of development so that while we centrally give people access to their data, people can start to create solutions that will work for individuals.

“It’s about how we create a hub that brings data together at a local level, building on the best of what is happening to get the best view of the patient.” 

Data as the key to care outcomes 

Though empowerment of the patient is the main goal, Swindells also spoke about the smart ways that data can be joined up and used by clinicians across the country to improve outcomes. The idea underpinning these hubs is for organisations to release anonymised data that can then be used for research and management. “We can move from management meetings that spend more time talking about what needs to be done and less time arguing about whose spreadsheet is accurate,” the NHS director argued. 

What is vital for NHS leaders to be aware of, according to Swindells, is that technological reform is real and already in its delivery phase – and organisations should be ready and willing to back it up. 

“Tech is becoming real rather than just a press release, and we have a sense of focus and partnership emerging in the NHS that plays from our core value,” he concluded. “We have a focus on the patient that is showing across the country.” 

If this is going to succeed, there needs to be not just a change in systems and technology, but also a new way of working and a forward-thinking, positive mindset to the switch to digital. Whilst the rhetoric around a modern health service is good to hear, these words need to be converted into action if the NHS is to shake off those jokes about dusty pagers and fax machines by the time it celebrates its 70th birthday.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Glasgow hospital design to be reviewed after post-mortem links child’s death to pigeon infection

23/01/2019Glasgow hospital design to be reviewed after post-mortem links child’s death to pigeon infection

The Scottish health minister has ordered a review of the design of Glasgow’s flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) after an i... more >
Outgoing NHS digital chief wrote ‘puff piece’ for future employer in ‘jaw-droppingly inappropriate’ behaviour

23/01/2019Outgoing NHS digital chief wrote ‘puff piece’ for future employer in ‘jaw-droppingly inappropriate’ behaviour

NHS England’s outgoing chief digital officer has been criticised for “jaw-droppingly inappropriate” behaviour after she announc... more >
Spending on agency staff has ‘increased markedly’ by 171% to cover vacancies across Welsh NHS

23/01/2019Spending on agency staff has ‘increased markedly’ by 171% to cover vacancies across Welsh NHS

NHS spending on agency staff in Wales has risen 171% in the last seven years, the majority of which is spent by the health service to provide cov... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Gentleness: an underrated quality in effective leadership

14/01/2019Gentleness: an underrated quality in effective leadership

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management,’ returns to write for NHE for his blog series on effective leadership. “It is not in your top three, Dean…” The difficulty in asking for feedback is that sometimes, occasionally, people will be honest with you. It can be humbling and troubling in equal measure. It’s somet... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

comment

Sneak a peek into the world of risk

19/12/2018Sneak a peek into the world of risk

The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) asked its members what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they’d share with peop... more >
The NHS Assembly: A moment to reset

19/12/2018The NHS Assembly: A moment to reset

The development of the NHS long-term plan offers a reset moment: a chance to develop a credible, sector-owned blueprint designed to improve care ... more >
NHS Supply Chain: Driving the way forward

19/12/2018NHS Supply Chain: Driving the way forward

Jin Sahota spent two years at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) establishing the future operating model for the new NHS Supply Chai... more >
Leading the way: The Translational Research Collaboration for Mental Health

19/12/2018Leading the way: The Translational Research Collaboration for Mental Health

Professor John Geddes, director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, introduces the new... more >
Under the surface of the funding settlement

19/12/2018Under the surface of the funding settlement

James Rimmer, chief finance officer and deputy CEO of NHS Southampton City CCG and co-chair of the NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) Finance For... more >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >