The government has “put its weight” behind investment in NHS technology with the recent spending review, according to Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director of patients and information.
Kelsey, who is set to step down from his role this month, told the audience at yesterday’s Roadmap for Sustainable Health event at the King’s Fund that he welcomed the recent news that the government intends to invest £1 billion in NHS IT over the next five years.
“What the spending reviews means is that we now have, within our grasp, by far the biggest injection of investment in the rebuilding and redesign of our digital infrastructure locally,” said Kelsey.
“The government has put its weight firmly behind this overarching imperative to get the basics right so that we can deliver a platform for the digital revolution.”
He added that the programme of the National Information Board, which is shaping the direction of NHS IT with its Personalised Health and Care 2020 framework, is going to receive “very specific considerable funding”.
“We know from lots of examples of other industries and in America that it does matter that you put some capital on the table for technology services.
“What you will see when that is finally confirmed is genuinely a specific commitment and recognition that this information revolution that has eluded us is fundamental”
This will include “significant investment” in training and support for NHS staff, said Kelsey. The next push of the NIB, which starts in April after the development of local digital roadmaps, is to empower people to learn how technology can improve their professional lives, he explained.
This is important as one of the main challenges to implementing new technologies effectively is getting frontline staff to change their culture to accept a new way of working, said Kelsey.
“Almost none of the problem with modernising the health service is to do with anything technological. It’s all to do with people being willing to change the way they do things, whether that is a patient or professional, and extract real value from these new technologies.”
He added: “We’ve got a big job supporting clinical colleagues' clear understanding of the benefits technology can bring and a realism about how long a journey can be.”
Another key message delivered by Kelsey at one of his final public discussions before leaving for a new role Australia, is that the centre has to change its mindset from one that controls to one that supports local development.
“This is all about an open NHS that is letting everyone get on with their thing.”
He added that in technical terms that could mean sticking open APIs on top of existing infrastructure so that any innovation, with permission, could access data and use it in a way to benefit professional and patients.
“There is all sorts of stuff we should not be doing because everyone else should be doing it. We just need to be an open platform”