Digital health

Government announce digital health plan bringing sector into 21st century

NHS patients up and down the country are set to benefit from faster, better, and more tailored care following a “digital revolution” bringing the health sector into the 21st century.

Today the government will publish its Plan for Digital Health and Social Care, outlining how it will transform digital healthcare and accelerate the uptake, integration, and mastery of the most innovative digital technologies across the NHS.

The Plan sets outs the government ambition to deliver quicker and more effective care to more people’s fingertips than ever before – propped up by a significant £2bn worth of funding.

Part of the funding will be ringfenced for the roll out of electronic patient records nationally across the NHS, which the government say will drive efficiency whilst also returning billions of pounds back to the NHS.

Dr Timothy Ferris, National Director of Transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “By harnessing the power of digital and data we can improve both how people access services and the way we provide care.

“Today’s plan for digital health and care sets out an ambitious vision for a future where the NHS puts more power and information at patients’ fingertips, and staff have the tools they need to deliver better and more joined-up services for those who need them.”

The Plan also crucially details how the extra investment will support remote monitoring, which is proposed as the key to busting the Covid-19 backlogs. It is alleged that a further 500,000 people could be better supported via remote monitoring by March 2023.

Last year, more than 280,000 people with long-term conditions were remotely monitored, which helped free up hospital capacity and saved clinicians invaluable amounts of time – ultimately improving health outcomes as problems were identified and dealt with earlier, resulting in shorter stays and fewer admissions in the first place.

Also in view of saving clinicians time that could be better spent elsewhere, patients will be able to complete their pre-assessment checks from the comfort of their own home by September 2024.

Dr Layla McCay, Director of Policy at NHS Confederation, said: “NHS leaders welcome the digital health and care strategy and see it as an important step in joining up health and social care records digitally under one roof. This is essential for enabling better system working and will allow vital data to be shared more widely, helping staff to deliver better care for patients.

“The plan presents an exciting opportunity not only to expand access to care via digital channels, but to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based technologies that will help make care more preventative, personalised and empowering for patients.

“The task ahead will be challenging and must be done carefully not to exacerbate inequality. It’s important that investment in IT infrastructure for the NHS continues and that systems are supported to implement these changes as they work hard to tackle the care backlogs. We hope that the forthcoming digital workforce strategy will help address recruitment and retention issues whilst making the NHS an attractive place to work for digital professionals.”

Backed by the £25m that was announced at London tech Week and as Dr Layla McCay alludes to above, the adoption of digital health and social care records will be promoted with the aim of underpinning the government ambition of facilitating more accessible information across the board.

The Plan will also acknowledge the key frontline workers who battled valiantly during and throughout the height of the pandemic, as the bedrock of health and social care services.

They will therefore bolster said workforce by:

  • Developing a National Digital Workforce Strategy to bridge the skills gap and ensure the NHS remains an attractive place to work.
  • Grow the specialist data and tech workforce through graduates, apprentices and experienced hires, creating an additional 10,500 positions.
  • Embed digital skills development into university curriculums to support our future and incoming workforce.
  • Provide a digital learning offer for adult social care staff, such as offering accessible training and online resources.

This new Plan follows and aligns with the publication of the Data Saves Lives: reshaping health and social care with data earlier this month.

Stay tuned for more coverage on this throughout the day.

Also, if you want to hear more about all the good things happening regarding digital health across the health industry you can register here for our Digital Health virtual event on the 21st of July.

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