Research and Technology

12.02.19

NHS workforce lacks digital literacy as Tesco knows more about its customers than the health service, warns Matt Hancock

Tesco knows more about its customers than the NHS does about its patients, and staff need far greater digital literacy, Matt Hancock has said, announcing a review on how to prepare the NHS workforce for a digital future.

A major review just published by Erik Topol urges the NHS to start educating and training staff to better prepare them for a digital future and allow technologies to be implemented at a faster pace and on a larger scale.

The Topol Review, carried out on behalf of the Department of Health and Special Care, explored how digital healthcare technologies such as genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence, and robotics will impact the NHS and the functions of staff.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the health secretary said the NHS was a decade behind modern businesses, and Hancock warned that the health service doesn’t even track people’s medical history or keep basic records of what devices have been implanted into patients.

He said: “When we talk about the importance of data management and inter-operability, most of the public won’t know what we mean.

“This is what I mean: right now, Tesco has more sophisticated and more efficient systems than the NHS.

“The Topol Review is a forensically thorough analysis of what we need to do and how we should do it.”

The review’s main recommendations include that all health professionals should receive core training in genomic literacy, a clear career pathway should be established from undergraduate to specialist and a digital enabled health system with a culture of continuous learning.

The report states: “There is a need to raise awareness of genomics and digital literacy among the health and social care workforce.

“This requires development of the skills, attitudes, and behaviours that individuals require to become digitally competent and confident.”

The health secretary said Baroness Dido Harding would take forward the ‘workforce implementation plan’ with recommendations from the Topol Review.

The review also recommended that patients should be suitably informed about health technologies, and that the adoption of technology should be used to give healthcare staff more time to care and interact with patients.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, commented that “clearly there is a lot of work ahead for employers,” adding that “the deployment of technology will of course require significant resource,” which needed to be government funded.

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