The NHS’ new chief information and technology officer will report to NHS England, NHS Improvement and also to Matthew Swindells, the new national director for commissioning operations and information.
Beverley Bryant, director of digital technology at NHS England, said the role – which has not been filled since the departure of previous incumbent Tim Kelsey in December 2015 – will have a wider impact.
She said: “It will be a far reaching role that builds on what Tim did, but linked to operations.”
NHS England advertised in November last year for a CITO to chair the National Information Board, deliver on national IT programmes, “embed core digital standards” in services, and deliver new public and data services.
However, Bryant, who was responding to a question at e-Health Week 2016, shed no light on when – or by whom – the role might be filled.
In response to another question, she did attempt to clarify the many dates put on health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ambition for the NHS to become ‘paperless.’
She was asked about the apparent disparity between the date that Hunt had originally put on this ambition – 2018 – and the focus on 2020 in the ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ framework that was issued to support the ‘Five Year Forward View’.
The National Information Board is taking the framework forward with a plethora of work programmes, organised into ten domains.
But the questioner wanted to know which date acute trusts should focus on, not least because it is not clear when funding will be released.
They pointed out that it does not look as if funding will be available until 2017, which would not give trusts time to deliver on a two year programme of planning, procurement, and implementation and still hit the earlier deadline.
Bryant said the 2018 deadline had been announced in 2012, but her team had persuaded the health secretary that this ambition could be fulfilled by organisations driving up access to the Summary Care Record in emergency departments.
The SCR is now in use at 63% of emergency departments, and the most recent SCR bulletin indicated that it would be extended to use to support scheduled care.
Bryant said: “We have managed to persuade the secretary of state that it is access to the SCR that matters for 2018 and that by 2020 we want to be paper-free.”
Personalised Health and Care 2020 said that by 2018, “clinicians in primary care, urgent and emergency care, and other key transitions of care contexts” would “operate without the use of paper records” – with patients also able to “record preferences and comments on their care record.”
The IT framework said that by 2020 “all care records will be digital, real-time and interoperable.” Despite this, Bryant also acknowledged that given lags in allocating funding, a 2021 deadline might be more relevant for provider organisations.
During her keynote speech to the conference on Tuesday, Bryant said the spending review funding runs until 2021.
She said she did not underestimate the difficulty in achieving the 2020 target, but that if no goal is set, technology will “keep falling down the to-do list of chief executives.”
If not all providers are fully digitally mature by that date, it will be achieved in 2022 or 2023/2024, Bryant said, “but the point is that it’s time to start now”.