The Department of Health has said it wants to become a “digital exemplar in Whitehall” in a plan for doing more of its work online and through social media.

The DH’s first ‘Digital Strategy’, published just ahead of the Christmas and New Year break, outlines the steps it will take to become a ‘digital first’ organisation, in line with the government’s wider digital strategy and plans for civil service reform.

The strategy says the DH will open up policymaking by making more use of digital technologies to collect and analyse views on policy proposals, and adopt a digital first approach to communications.

It also says it will improve staff awareness of, and training in, using modern digital technologies.

Under the latest reforms of the NHS, the DH is destined to become a smaller, more policy-focused organisation in the spring.

As such, it will no longer deliver services; so the digital strategy contains no proposals for new digital services for the NHS, patients or the public.

However, it does say that the DH will have a role in encouraging the health service to implement the government’s promised information revolution.

Specifically, it will oversee the implementation of the ‘digital first’ strategy for health and social care that is health’s version of the Cabinet Office’s commitment to making government services ‘digital by default.’ 

The creation of a single, integrated customer service platform for NHS information and online services, and measures to improve data quality, fall under this banner.

Dan Poulter, the health minister in charge of NHS IT and information, says in a foreword to the strategy that it should lead to “more informed policy making by ministers” and reduce costs.

“This digital strategy will change the way we work inside the department, how we connect with the world outside, and the way we work with our partners across the wider health and social care community,” he writes. “It will make everything we do simpler, clearer and faster.”

Specific commitments in the strategy include: the development of a digital standard for formal consultations; a pilot of the digital first approach to communications in early 2013; the creation of virtual networks for DH teams and stakeholders; and the development of digital workspaces to share ideas with other professionals.

The strategy also says that the DH’s existing website will be moved to from March 2013, when the NHS reorganisation takes effect.